Timeline: Ben Kohles' journey to a third PGA TOUR card
6 Min Read
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
Ben Kohles has taken a long and winding road through professional golf.
The University of Virginia alum is forever known as the first player to win his first two starts on the Korn Ferry Tour, straight out of college in 2012. He has also, at one point, lost full status on the Korn Ferry Tour.
But the wily veteran has maintained the love for the game and a constant desire to improve, also becoming a husband and father along the way. It has led him to become the first player to clinch #TOURBound designation via the top-30 on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List. This season marks the first time the circuit will award 30 cards via the season-long points race, up from 25 last season.
Kohles has notched two Korn Ferry Tour titles this season – Astara Chile Classic, HomeTown Lenders Championship – quickly doubling his career win total after a victory drought of nearly 11 years. It’s the recipe for a path back to the PGA TOUR.
Kohles first graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour in 2012. He did so again in 2021.
Now in 2023, he’s set to become a three-time Korn Ferry Tour graduate.
“I’ve been doing this for a while as a professional,” said Kohles after clinching #TOURBound in early July at the Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS. “Hopefully the third time’s the charm back on TOUR.”
Here’s a timeline of Kohles’ journey in professional golf, as he readies for a third season on the PGA TOUR:
Ben Kohles’ long journey back to the PGA TOUR
July 29, 2012: After earning a spot at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship as one of 12 college All-Americans invited to the event, he defeats Luke Guthrie in a playoff at The Ohio State University Golf Club (Scarlet) to activate instant Korn Ferry Tour membership.
Aug. 5, 2012: Kohles wastes no time in acclimating to life as a professional, winning on the Korn Ferry Tour for the second consecutive week. He cards a final-round 62 at the Cox Classic in Omaha for a three-stroke win. To this day, he’s the only player to win his first two starts on either the PGA TOUR or Korn Ferry Tour.
Oct. 28, 2012: Finishes No. 8 on Korn Ferry Tour season-long standings to secure one of 25 available PGA TOUR cards.
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
March 17, 2013: He finishes T7 at the Valspar Championship, his first top-10 on TOUR.
Aug. 18, 2013: After finishing No. 148 on the FedExCup as a rookie, notching just two top-25s in 25 starts, he falls back to conditional TOUR status. This means a return to the Korn Ferry Tour.
Aug. 24, 2014: After making just five cuts in 19 Korn Ferry Tour starts, he finishes No. 176 on the Regular Season standings, no result better than T45. He falls short of qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, meaning a return to the Korn Ferry Tour for 2015.
July 19, 2015: He finishes T10 at the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae, his first TOUR-sanctioned top-10 since March 2013.
Aug. 30, 2015: With his fifth consecutive missed cut to end the Regular Season, he finishes No. 107 on the Regular Season standings. He fails to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and will revert to a conditional category for 2016.
May 1, 2016: In his first Korn Ferry Tour start of the season, he finishes T10 at the United Leasing & Finance Championship at Victoria National. This allows him to improve his position in the reshuffle of conditional members and earn starts for the rest of the season.
Aug. 28, 2016: Misses the cut at the Regular Season finale. With just four made cuts in 14 starts, he finishes No. 133 on the Regular Season standings and fails to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
Dec. 11, 2016: Finishes T23 at Final Stage of Q-School to assure guaranteed starts into 2017.
Aug. 27, 2017: Cards a final-round 67 at the Regular Season finale for a T8 finish, dramatically moving inside the top-75 on the Regular Season standings and earning a Korn Ferry Tour Finals berth for the first time. This assures full Korn Ferry Tour status in 2018, as well.
Oct. 1, 2017: With a T11, T32 and two missed cuts in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, falls short of regaining his PGA TOUR card.
July 1, 2018: Finishes T5 at the Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS, punctuating a streak of six consecutive top-15 finishes.
Aug. 19, 2018: Misses fifth cut in six starts to conclude Regular Season, but comfortably qualifies for Korn Ferry Tour Finals to assure full Korn Ferry Tour status for 2019.
Sept. 23, 2018: Makes three of four cuts in Korn Ferry Tour Finals but without a top-20 finish. Falls short of regaining PGA TOUR card.
Jan. 16, 2019: Finishes T2 at Korn Ferry Tour season-opening The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Aug. 11, 2019: After failing to record another top-10 in the Regular Season, falls short of a TOUR card via top-25 on standings, but qualifies for Korn Ferry Tour Finals on the strength of his runner-up in Exuma – assuring full Korn Ferry Tour status for the following season.
Sept. 2, 2019: Misses two of three cuts in Korn Ferry Tour Finals to fall short of regaining TOUR card.
Feb. 9, 2020: Follows a tie for third at The Panama Championship with a runner-up at Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard, well positioned on Points List before the three-month COVID-19 pandemic hiatus.
July 18, 2020: Finishes T9 at TPC San Antonio Championship at the Oaks, his fourth top-16 in five starts in the Return to Golf.
Sept. 6, 2020: Takes runner-up at Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS, assuring a spot inside the top 25 on the standings as the Korn Ferry Tour breaks for the fall. (Due to the pandemic, 25 TOUR cards will be awarded via a 2020-21 combined season.)
Aug. 15, 2021: Following a consistent Regular Season campaign – 15 top-25 finishes in 38 starts – Kohles clinches his first TOUR card since 2013 via a spot in the top 25 on the 2020-21 season-long standings.
(Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Sept. 19, 2021: Makes emotional return to the TOUR as a member at the Fortinet Championship.
Aug. 7, 2022: After just two top-25s in 24 starts, finishes outside the top 150 on the FedExCup and loses TOUR status.
Nov. 7, 2022: Finishes T6 at Final Stage of Q-School to assure 12 guaranteed starts on 2023 Korm Ferry Tour.
April 2, 2023: Earns third career Korn Ferry Tour title, first since 2012, at the Astara Chile Classic.
April 30, 2023: Earns fourth Korn Ferry Tour title, second of the season, at the HomeTown Lenders Championship in Huntsville, Alabama.
July 2, 2023: With a made cut and T26 at the Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS, cements his spot inside the top-30 on the season-long standings and a third trip to the PGA TOUR.
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.