Ben Kohles gets PGA rookie season off to great start

tstevens@newsobserver.comJanuary 16, 2013 

Ben Kohles had a great start to the 2013 PGA Tour last week in Hawaii.

Kohles, a Green Hope High graduate, shot rounds of 67-70-68-68 for a 7-under 273 at the Waiale Country Club in Hawaii.

A fellow rookie, Russell Henley, destroyed the tournament scoring record with a 24-under 63-63-67-63–256. It was the second lowest PGA Tour 72-hole score ever.

Kohles’ sparkling debut in his first PGA season netted him a tie for 41st in the Sony Open and $19,068. Henley picked up a check for a more than a million for winning.

“I played well,” Kohles, 22, said Tuesday from LaQuinta, Calif., where he was about to play a practice round for the Humana Challenge.

“I struggled a little bit with my putter and I misread some greens now and then, but I was pretty consistent all week.”

Henley, a University of Georgia product, said the hole looked like an ocean during the tournament. He finished his final round with five straight birdies.

Kohles’ life has changed drastically since last year when he played on the Web.Com Tour, winning two events and earning more than $300,000 in 10 outings.

“When I first left amateur golf I was scrambling around, hoping I could get into a Monday qualifying round on the Nationwide Tour,” he said. “It is amazing how much my life has changed.”

He didn’t try out for the Green Hope team as a freshman, but helped the Falcons win N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A titles in two of the next three years.

He remembered then-coach David Allen instilling a strong practice routine.

“He has played college golf and treated us like a college team,” he said.

Kohles later played at the University of Virginia, winning seven tournaments. He opened his pro career by winning Web.Com events in Omaha, Neb., and Columbus, Ohio.

His priority is to keep the PGA exemption by playing well. Of course, he has higher aspirations. “I’ve won an event at every level I’ve played,” he said. “I’d like to do it again.”

Kohles was pleased with his consistency in Hawaii. He’d like to have a few shots back and he knows he needs to putt better, but for a rookie season debut, he has no complaints.

“There is room for improvement,” he said. “Right now, I’m trying to get a little bit better every day.”

TSTEVENS: 919-829-8910

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