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Ben Kohles holds off newcomer Dimi Papadatos, earns first win since 2012 at Astara Chile Classic

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Ben Kohles holds off newcomer Dimi Papadatos, earns first win since 2012 at Astara Chile Classic

    Written by Staff @KornFerryTour

    SANTIAGO, Chile – Shortly after turning professional out of the University of Virginia in the summer of 2012, Ben Kohles won his first two starts on the Korn Ferry Tour. To this day, Kohles is the only player in Korn Ferry Tour history to win each of his first two starts. There were 10 years, 7 months, and 28 days between Kohles’ historic victories and Sunday’s final round at the Astara Chile Classic, where he defeated Dimi Papadatos, an Australian bidding to win his Korn Ferry Tour debut, with a birdie on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.

    Kohles entered the final round two strokes off the lead but flew up the leaderboard with birdies on four of his first five holes. Eight pars followed for Kohles, who birdied the par-5 14th and became the first player in the field at 21-under par.

    Papadatos got off to a hot start as well, opening with back-to-back birdies and an eagle at the par-5 third. The 31-year-old Aussie later birdied the par-4 17th and, coupled with Kohles’ bogey on the same hole roughly 20 minutes later, took a one-stroke lead at 21-under par. With a par on the 72nd hole, Papadatos finalized a 7-under 65, tied for the low round of the day.

    Kohles rebounded and birdied the final hole of regulation, the par-5 18th, forcing a playoff with Papadatos. The two played the 18th hole twice more in a sudden-death plaoff, with both making birdie the first time around, and Kohles making an up-and-down birdie from behind the green to win the next time around. Papadatos’ birdie putt to force a third playoff hole grazed the edge of the cup but stayed above ground.

    “It was just great to feel the nerves again, really be in the thick of things,” Kohles said. “I was really nervous on every putt I hit on (No. 18) green. I just tried to breathe and tell myself I’ve done it a million times and just picture myself on the practice green with nobody here, and just hit a good putt. That’s all you can do. Glad it went in.”

    Kohles emerged from Virginia as a rising star. In four seasons in Charlottesville, Kohles won seven times, tying a school record, and was the 2010 and 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, joining David Duval (1992-93), Bryce Molder (1999-2001), Bill Haas (2003-04), and Ryan Blaum (2005-06) as the only two-time winners of the award (Brooks Koepka and Ollie Schniederjans later accomplished the feat as well).

    Kohles also garnered All-America honors in 2011 and 2012, with the latter making him one of 10 players who earned an exemption for the 2012 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship as either a collegiate All-American or member of the 2011 Walker Cup team. Other players who received the same exemption for the event included Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers, both amateurs at the time.

    At the Ohio State University Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio, Kohles held the 54-hole lead and defeated Luke Guthrie in a playoff to win his Korn Ferry Tour debut. Kohles accepted full membership and entered the Cox Classic the following week in Omaha, Nebraska. Two strokes off the 54-hole lead, Kohles closed with a 9-under 62 and won by three strokes.

    “I got a lot more scar tissue than I did then,” Kohles said. “There was just freewheeling the first two events. I didn’t really have any expectations. I just went out and played and, sure enough, ended up being there at the end.”

    WinnerTime Between WinsTournaments
    Tag Ridings18 years, 10 months, 16 days2002 Permian Basin Open/2021 The Ascendant presented by Blue
    Eric Axley12 years, 11 months, 14 days2005 UNC Health Championship presented by STITCH/2018 North Mississippi Classic
    Omar Uresti12 years, 11 months, 8 days1994 Shreveport Open/2007 Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship
    Skip Kendall12 years, 8 months, 27 days1994 UNC Health Championship presented by STITCH/2007 Chitimacha Louisiana Open
    James Driscoll11 years, 9 months, 7 days2004 Virginia Beach Open/2016 Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation
    Frank Langham10 years, 8 months, 17 days1993 Permian Basin Open/2004 Rheem Classic
    Ben Kohles10 years, 7 months, 28 days2012 Cox Classic/2023 Astara Chile Classic
    Paul Haley II10 years, 4 months, 6 days2012 Astara Chile Classic/2022 Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS
    Scott Gump10 years, 3 months, 27 days1994 BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX/2004 Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron
    Shane Bertsch10 years, 1 month, 13 days2005 BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX/2015 Rust-Oleum Championship

    Between his second and third victories, Kohles accomplished plenty; he just had not returned to the winner’s circle.

    Kohles earned a PGA TOUR card following the 2012 season. Although he fell back to the Korn Ferry Tour after the 2013 season and struggled mightily for the next three seasons, only making 16 cuts in 50 starts, Kohles returned to form and recorded three runner-up finishes across the 2019 and 2020-21 seasons. Two of them came in the 2020-21 season, propelling Kohles to No. 23 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List and back to the PGA TOUR.

    “It’s pretty sweet to see all the hard work pay off,” said Kohles, who finished 161st on the 2021-22 FedExCup Playoffs and Eligibility Points List. “I know I can play out on the PGA TOUR and compete, and this proves to myself that I definitely can do it, especially coming down the stretch.

    “It’s great to play well under the pressure.”

    Kohles was not the only winner Sunday in Chile. Alejandro Tosti, a 26-year-old Argentinian, recorded a top-10 and accrued the highest point by a Latin American player across the three Korn Ferry Tour events contested in Latin America this season, earning him an exemption for the PGA TOUR’s Mexico Open at Vidanta. Tosti finished T7 Sunday, enough for a 1.067-point cushion over fellow Argentinian Nelson Ledesma.

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