Insider: Someone forgot to tell Kohles it's not this easyAugust 08, 2012
John Dell, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
It's not supposed to be this easy, but rookie Ben Kohles is defying logic. It's not often a player opens his pro career with two straight wins, but that's what Kohles has done on the Web.com Tour.
Kohles is the hottest golfer on any planet these days, but the humble former Virginia Cavalier is trying to stay as grounded as he can. You would think that after winning on Sunday in Omaha to jump into second place on the Tour's money list, he would have flown to this week's tour stop at the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo. Instead, he and his friend and caddie Will Almand, a former golfer at UNC Greensboro, rented a car and drove.
It's hard to believe that two weeks ago all he did to start his pro career was fill out the questionnaire before the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. There was no press conference or even a statement from Kohles about his plans.
"I just checked the box that said 'Pro,'" Kohles said innocently enough about what has turned into a whirlwind of a start to his pro career.
Sure, it was a surprise when Kohles won in his debut, but he also has Peter Uihlein to thank because if not for him turning down a spot as a college All-America to the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational, Kohles might not have ever gotten his chance.
There might not be a word to describe Kohles following up his victory with yet another win on Sunday at the Cox Classic in Omaha.
"It's pretty life-altering," Kohles said Sunday after his victory gave him two wins in two attempts.
Even though Kohles won seven times at Virginia he was still very much under the radar when he checked that box as a pro earlier this summer. He was a two-time player of the year in the ACC and after graduating with a degree in psychology, was going to start his pro career later this summer but on a whim decided to turn pro earlier.
Ben Kohles: Tale of the Tape • First player in Web.com Tour history to win his first two starts as a professional. • He's the 12th player in Web.com Tour history to have consecutive victories and the seventh to win in two straight weeks. • Beat out Kevin Stadler, who had the previous record of winning twice in his first four starts • Joins Casey Wittenberg as only two-time winners on Web.com Tour this season.
"It's kind of worked out," Kohles said in what has to be one of the biggest understatements of the year.
Kohles, who moved to Cary, N.C., with his family from Dallas, Texas, when he was 10, was a late bloomer. He didn't play serious golf until around the age of 13 and in fact was cut as a freshman from his team at Green Hope High School. He later helped Green Hope win two state titles.
As Kohles tries to come to grips with his two victories, he's also in a new tax bracket after earning $261,000. He still lives at home with his parents and since he doesn't have an agent his father, Kevin, has taken it upon himself to help plan all the new media obligations that have come about.
"There's really been no slow down for me so I figured I'd keep the ball going and keep playing," Kohles said.
He'll play again this week and if he wins he'll get a battlefield promotion to the PGA TOUR. Not bad for a 22-year-old who had serious back trouble in his junior year at Virginia that forced him out of action for three months.
The way Coach Bowen Sargent remembers it, Kohles' back problems were so severe he could barely walk.
"To see where he's come from and how he's handling everything now is great," Sargent said.
After getting a cortisone shot for the back pain he underwent demanding rehabilitation that strengthened his core muscles. He's happy to report that the back pain never returned and he's 100 percent.
Sargent admits he was surprised that Kohles had such a spectacular debut but he knew Kohles had all the tools to be successful.
"I knew he would make an impact and usually you have to pay your dues a little, but Ben hasn't had to do that," Sargent said. "And he's a lot closer to the PGA TOUR."
With his two wins Kohles has secured a PGA TOUR card for 2013. He said he plans on taking off next week but is in good shape to battle for the Web.com Tour money title.
When asked how Kohles has been successful so soon (a total of 36 under in his eight Web.com Tour rounds) one of his theories is about freeing up his mind and his time. When he was at Virginia there is more to college than just golf.
Inside THE 25 1 Casey Wittenberg $289,968 2 Ben Kohles $261,000 3 Luke List $260,796 4 Paul Haley II $245,898 5 Andres Gonzales $227,290
"Being at Virginia was great and I loved my time there but now that I'm not in school it kind of frees me," Kohles said. "It's nice to wake up every day to just go to the course in the morning or just work out. So it's a lot different because in school you have to keep up with everything."
He also said there's a little more focus in his game since turning pro.
"I was leaving shots out there (as an amateur) and I knew I couldn't do that once I got to the next level and for some reason I didn't leave any shots out there and I won," Kohles said about his first victory. "When I got to the pro level and checked that box something changed I guess."
Helping make the transition to pro golf has also been his good friend, Almand.
"We get along pretty well and he's been a big help," Kohles said.
Despite the whirlwind two weeks the only substantial purchase Kohles made has been an iPad, but figuring out how to use all the bells and whistles on it hasn't been easy.
"I haven't thought much about buying anything big or outrageous," Kohles said. "I'm just going to stay out here and keep playing. ... Maybe the week I'm off I'll have time to soak it all in and kind of sit back and reflect about what I've done."
When Kohles won in his debut he remembered thinking about all the people who have helped him along the way. From Patrick Kelley, who gave Kohles his first lesson at a driving range in Raleigh to Todd Anderson, who he started working with in high school.
"Before my junior year of high school I started working with Todd Anderson and he really helped me," Kohles said.
Kohles laughed at the notion that he is similar to Michael Jordan, who famously got cut from the varsity basketball team when he was a freshman in high school. He pointed out that his high school golf team was very good and he didn't deserve to make the team as a freshman because his scores just weren't good enough.
"It wasn't until I was around 13 that I started taking golf seriously," Kohles said. "I got kind of a late start to the game considering how it is now. I started getting better around my sophomore year."
He's still getting better and improving on one of the biggest stages.
Even though he hasn't been a pro long he certainly talks as if he's figured out how to stay successful.
"I obviously try not to think about it and I'm trying to stay in the moment," Kohles said. "It's always been a dream of mine to play out there on the PGA TOUR and I'm just going to try to go from tournament to tournament and build up on the money list so I can stay inside the top 25."
Of course, if he picks up another victory he'll be on the PGA TOUR a lot quicker.
John Dell has covered golf for the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina for the last 18 years. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.