Ben Kohles wins in playoff at HomeTown Lenders Championship
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Written by Staff @KornFerryTour
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – After going nearly 11 years between victories, Ben Kohles needed just 28 days between his first and second win of the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour season, as he defeated Ben Silverman on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday evening at the HomeTown Lenders Championship, which was reduced to 54 holes as a result of significant fog and forecast-related delays.
Within this 28-day span, Kohles, who earlier this month snapped a winless drought of 10 years, 7 months, and 28 days with a win at the Astara Chile Classic (also with a birdie on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff), went from a relegated PGA TOUR member to the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List leader and first multi-time winner this season. With 1,251 points this season, 259 more points than the second-ranked Silverman, Kohles likely secured one of the 30 PGA TOUR cards which will be awarded at season’s end.
“It feels great,” Kohles said of his position on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List and prospect of returning to the PGA TOUR. “I think I’m good.”
Kohles made just two bogeys all week at The Ledges, the fewest in the field. Both came in the first seven holes of his opening round, meaning Kohles followed a bogey at the par-4 seventh with 15 birdies and zero bogeys across his final 47 holes of regulation. With the wind whipping for much of Sunday afternoon, Kohles reached 13-under par for the tournament with a bogey-free 3-under 67, one of two bogey-free final rounds.
“It was such a tough day compared to yesterday,” Kohles said. “When we played 27 holes, there was barely any wind. It was quite gusty out there (Sunday). I hit it pretty low, and I’m really good at flighting my irons. It’s a strength of my game. The windier the better, honestly. It was great to just capitalize today and get the win.”
Kohles only missed three greens in regulation through the first 36 holes, but the former Cary, North Carolina resident missed five in the final round, including the par-4 17th and 18th. The save at No. 17 kept Kohles within two strokes of Silverman as the duo headed to the 457-yard par-4 18th, the toughest hole relative to par of the final round.
“Had a couple great saves earlier in the day, none was bigger than No. 17,” Kohles said. “I pull(ed) it left, thought it went off the mountain. We found it down there, kind of fortunate I was able to hit it. Hit it (to) about 15 feet, made that for par. I figured I’d be dropping. When we saw it down there, I was super pumped because I knew if I could get a club on it, there’s a chance to save par. That was pretty sweet.”
Silverman had yet to make a mistake Sunday, though. In fact, Silverman’s last bogey came on the sixth hole of his second round. An errant drive into the left penalty area along the mountainside forced Silverman into a drop, after which he pitched out to the fairway, hit the green, and two-putted for double bogey. Kohles saved par from just off the front of the green, forcing a playoff. It was the second time this season Silverman made double bogey on the final hole and fell into a playoff, though he emerged victorious the last time around.
Kohles and Silverman both made testers for par as they pushed the first playoff hole, No. 18. When the two played it again, Kohles stuck an approach within 3 feet of the hole and rolled in the winning birdie.
“That was quite the finish there,” Kohles said. “I had 156 (yards) adjusted in the first and 162 in the second playoff hole. Being six yards further back was actually great, because I knew I could just go ahead and swing at a smooth 7 (iron) and it was going to be right. It came off and was right at it. To be able to get one in there close and to be able to make it for the win’s pretty sweet.”
A two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year at University of Virginia, Kohles turned professional in 2012 and won his first two Korn Ferry Tour starts; he remains the only player in Tour history to accomplish the feat. Kohles earned his PGA TOUR card at the end of 2012, only to lose it the following year and spend seven more seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour.
In 41 starts in the combined 2020-21 season, Kohles posted seven top-10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes, en route to a PGA TOUR card. The winless season left Kohles without an exemption for 2023 after he finished No. 161 on the 2021-22 FedExCup Playoffs and Eligibility Points List.
Rather than play with conditional status and bet all his chips on the first four events of the season, Kohles teed it up at Final Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament last fall. A T6 finish earned him guaranteed starts for the first 12 events of the 2023 season. Kohles won the sixth event of the year for fully exempt status.
Now Kohles has his eyes on the coveted Three-Victory Promotion, which awards an immediate promotion to the PGA TOUR.
“Maybe losing my card was the best thing for me,” Kohles said. “Getting two… why not try to get another one and get a little quick trip back to the TOUR?”
Per Korn Ferry Tour Rules and Regulations, the 2023 HomeTown Lenders Championship was reduced to 54 holes after the start of the first round was delayed 28 hours; the first round concluded at 11:09 a.m. local time Saturday, while the second round concluded at 9:40 a.m. Sunday
This week marks the first 54-hole event on the Korn Ferry Tour since the 2019 BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX, as well as the 15th event reduced to 54 holes since the start of the 2000 Korn Ferry Tour season (includes three events which were reduced to 36 holes)
The 36-hole cut was made at 3-under par (70 professionals and one amateur made the cut) upon the conclusion of the second round Sunday morning
Sunday marked the fifth playoff of the 2023 season; there were six playoffs across 26 events last season
Ben Silverman (2nd/-13), winner of the 2023 The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club, posts his third top-three finish of the season (and second in a row – T3 last week at LECOM Suncoast Classic); his only previous season with multiple top-three finishes was 2017 (win and T2)
Frankie Capan III (T3/-12) backs up career-low 6-under 64 with 4-under 66 to record his first top-10 in his eighth career Korn Ferry Tour start; his previous career-high finish was T17 at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club earlier this season
David Skinns (T3/-12) matches Blayne Barber (T7/-9) for the low round of the final round with bogey-free 5-under 65, posts his third top-10 and second top-three finish of the season (won Club Car Championship at The Landings Golf & Athletic Club); his only previous season with multiple top-three finishes was 2020-21 (won 2021 Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna; T2 at 2021 The Ascendant presented by Blue), and his only calendar year on Tour with multiple top-10s was 2021 (five)
Auburn University alum and Auburn resident Blayne Barber (T7/-9), a conditional member in the “Past Champion 5-10 Years” category who Monday qualified into this week’s event for his first start of the season, closes in 5-under 65 and earns a spot in the next event (AdventHealth Championship, scheduled for May 18-21) with a top-25 and his highest finish since a T7 at the 2021 Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna
Making his ninth start of the season and second career appearance at this event, University of Alabama alum and Birmingham resident Wilson Furr (T7/-9) logs final-round even-par 70 to solidify his first top-25 and earn a spot in the AdventHealth Championship
Earlier in the day, Furr completed a course-record 9-under 61 in the second round; his career-low round in PGA TOUR-sanctioned play prior to this week was a 7-under 63 in a PGA TOUR Canada event last year, while his career-low round in nine previous Korn Ferry Tour starts was an 8-under 64 in the second round of the 2023 Club Car Championship at The Landings Golf & Athletic Club
Auburn University alum Trace Crowe (T11/-8), the last man in the field who gained entry when Chris Baker withdrew prior to the first round Friday morning, earns a spot in the AdventHealth Championship with a career-high finish in his third start of the season; his only top-25 in 19 previous Korn Ferry Tour starts was a T18 at the 2022 NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank last May
Auburn University alum and Birmingham resident Michael Johnson (T17/-7) follows back-to-back 4-under 66s with 1-over 71 in the final round, solidifying his fourth top-25 of the season and highest finish since a T15 at the 2022 Live and Work in Maine Open
Scott Gutschewski (T5/-10) follows last week’s win at the LECOM Suncoast Classic with a top-10, giving him back-to-back top-10s for the first time since May 2010 at the Stadion Classic at UGA and BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX
Making his third start of the season, Wade Binfield (T5/-10) posts a career-high finish for his first top-10 since 2019, as well as his third top-10 in his 78th career Korn Ferry Tour start (previous top-10s, both T9s, came in 2019); he began the season buried on the priority ranking after a T101 at Final Stage of the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament, but he gained entry to the field following last week’s reshuffle, which saw him climb the priority ranking following a T25 at the Astara Chile Classic, where he was the fourth-to-last player in the field (No. 152 of 156), and T52 at the Veritex Bank Championship
Carter Jenkins (T7/-9) closes with four consecutive bogeys for final-round 1-over 71 but posts second top-10 of season and Korn Ferry Tour career; his only top-10 in 20 previous Korn Ferry Tour starts was T8 at the 2023 Panama Championship
Earlier in the day, Jenkins played the final six holes of his second round (Nos. 4-9) at 1-under par as he capped a 7-under 63 and took the outright 36-hole lead at 11-under par; his best 36- or 54-hole position in 20 career Korn Ferry Tour starts prior to this week was T11 at the 2023 The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club (finished T34)
Paul Barjon (T53/-2), winner of the inaugural HomeTown Lenders Championship in 2021, birdies two of his final three holes (Nos. 7 and 8) to close in 1-over 71
Monday qualifier Michael Sweeney (MC/+2) cards 3-over 73 in the second round and misses the cut in his Korn Ferry Tour debut; he holds PGA TOUR Canada membership for 2023, with the season-opening event scheduled for June 15-18 in Victoria, British Columbia