RALEIGH A three-time All-America at Virginia, Ben Kohles of Cary came on the Web.com Tour in 2012 and abruptly won his first two tournaments.
Jason Gore, who made a run at fame at the 2005 U.S. Open in Pinehurst, has seven career victories on the tour.
As a rookie in 2014, Carlos Ortiz of Mexico won two of his first six starts on the Web.com Tour, piled up a lot of cash early and ended the year as the tour’s top money winner.
All advanced to the PGA Tour, eyes wide open, ready to take on the best players in the world. All are back on the Web.com Tour, playing this week in the Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield Plantation.
Asked the difference between the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour, Ortiz smiled and said, “An extra zero on the right.”
Good answer. Accurate, too. Win the Rex and the payoff is $117,000. Win most PGA Tour events these days and it’s a seven-figure payday.
The competition on the PGA Tour is better, obviously. The courses, for the most part, are better, tougher. There is no shortage of good players coming up behind you, many from the Web.com Tour, ready to take your place on tour if you struggle or slip.
Kohles, 27, struggled and slipped. He had one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in 2013 but missed the cut in 13 of 25 starts and did not retain his playing rights for 2014.
Returning to the Web.com Tour, he has yet to win again but has since changed golf teachers, revamped his swing and believes he can play his way back on the PGA Tour.
“It obviously seemed pretty easy at the start, winning those first two,” Kohles said. “It’s really not that easy, as I learned. It’s a grind, week after week.
“I kind went through a lull there for a couple of years and kind of lost a little with my driver and was a little down on myself. But I feel like I’ve got my game in a good spot.”
Kohles has been working with John Tillery, a noted golf instructor whose clients include Kevin Kisner, the winner last week at Colonial on the PGA Tour.
Kohles said he has changed the path of his downswing, squaring up his swing and eliminating some of the big fades that have been hurting him.
“I’ve just learned a lot over the last four or five years after turning pro,” Kohles said.
Gore, 43, is another who has seen the good and the not-so-good side of golf. He was the talk of the U.S. Open in 2005, a no-name playing in the final twosome on Sunday with defending champion Retief Goosen, receiving a standing ovation at the first tee that day and again at the 18th green despite fading to an 84.
Everybody seemed to love the amiable Gore, a big bear of guy who is serious about his golf but not so serious he can’t laugh at himself. His name will always be linked – favorably – with Pinehurst and the Open.
“That was definitely a changing week for me, to be thrown into that spotlight,” he said.
Gore went on to win on the PGA Tour that year at the 84 Lumber Classic, his only tour victory. He has bounced back and forth between tours and shared the third-round lead in the 2015 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro – the tournament won by Davis Love III, the one Tiger Woods had a chance to win.
“When I was playing confidently out there I did well,” Gore said. “I’m battling through some aches and pains of being 43, but that’s the way it is. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there and giving it a shot again.”
And adding an extra zero to his paychecks.