Ben Kohles might not have been ready for the immediate and impressive success he had in professional golf. Six years later, with a few tips from a friend and a few more from a motivational book, he goes into this weekend's Rex Hospital Open feeling good about his chances.
Whether it's enough to get Kohles his first Web.com Tour win since 2012, when he won his first two tournaments straight out of Virginia, remains to be seen. That led to a whirlwind but eventually fruitless year on the PGA Tour, and Kohles has spent the past five years trying to recapture that mojo, even moving back to Cary, where he played at Green Hope.
The recent results are good: Made cuts in 10 of 11 tournaments this year and a pair of top-15 finishes in his past two tournaments to move him into 54th on the money list heading into this “home” event at TPC at Wakefield Plantation, a course he knows well, even if Prestonwood Country Club is his actual home turf.
And it started with a conversation with Patton Kazzire, the 2015 Web.com player of the year and a two-time PGA Tour winner – both since November – to help jumpstart Kohles' summer.
“This was probably a couple months ago when I was playing OK but not really getting any good finishes, just in the middle of the pack,” Kohles said. “He said just try to build on each week and use that momentum to carry into the next week, and it was really nice to see that pay off in Knoxville and the BMW, playing pretty well there.
“Also, I read this book, 'The Obstacle is the Way,' which it's just a new perspective. It's just about positivity and being positive. That's really helped me. I've noticed in my rounds in the past few weeks I've really finished strong in almost every round I've played, which is great for my confidence. I feel like the game's there.”
Since Kohles won back-to-back straight out of the gate, his ticket to the luxury and riches of the PGA Tour, the five years since have been a rediscovery of his game. It was a lot for a recent college graduate to handle, going from 10 events in an ACC season to playing and traveling every week, especially with only a few months of pro-golf experience.
He had one top-10 finish in 2013, in March, and got into the top 75 in FedEx Cup points before missing the cut in 11 of his final 17 tournaments in what became a self-fulfilling prophecy as he struggled to deal with the adversity. That sent him back to the Web.com Tour, where he's playing in his 100th tournament this week.
“I feel like I'm a much more mature player now, having been out here for quite a long time,” Kohles said. “It's obviously hard to stay out here and you don't want to stay on this tour, you want to get to the next show, but it's hard. I came out here with a bang, win two and get your card right away, it was almost surreal. Not that I took it for granted, but it seemed pretty easy at the time.”
After the Rex, Kohles will join many of his fellow competitors in a caravan to Maryland for sectional U.S. Open qualifying on Monday. Kohles made it through last year to his first Open appearance, a terrific experience despite missing the cut by seven shots at Erin Hills on a course that played to the strengths of the big hitters, not a precise putter like Kohles. Then it's a quick turnaround to Chicago for the next Web.com Tour stop, the kind of grind that once threw him for a loop but, at 28, he has now embraced.
“There's even more drive, to get back to where I can be and how I can play,” Kohles said. “The drive is still there.”
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, email@example.com, @LukeDeCock