At this rate, 22-year-old Ben Kohles will become history’s most successful golfer in no time flat.
The 6-foot-2, 165-pound former Green Hope High School standout has entered two professional tournaments _ last weekend in Omaha, Neb. and the weekend before in Columbus, Ohio on the PGA’s web.com Tour.
Kohles won both.
After eight professional rounds he’s shot 62, 65, 66 twice, 67 twice, 69 and 70. Combined, he’s 36 strokes under par and has won $261,000.
Jack Nicklaus didn’t start that hot. Neither did Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan or anyone else. A handful of players had won in their pro debut. No one had won two straight to start.
Kohles, whose family moved to Cary from Texas when he was 10 years old, didn’t even seriously begin playing golf until he was 13 or so and entered the junior developmental program at Prestonwood Country Club.
Out of high school, he went to Virginia and was a star, winning seven tournaments, but certainly wasn’t projected to be the next pro luminary when he graduated in May.
“My head’s been spinning,” Kohles said by phone Monday.
“It’s totally been a dream come true. I never expected anything like this to happen to me. It was way beyond any of my wildest expectations and it’s still kind of hard to take it all in. But now, of course, I want to make it three straight.”
Kohles’ astonishing liftoff has turned his father into an unofficial public relations manager.
An investments manager for the Silverback asset fund of Chapel Hill, Kevin Kohles spent Monday fielding interview requests, including one from ESPN.
Ben and his best friend/caddy Will Almand spent Monday driving from Omaha, Neb. to Springfield, Mo. for this week’s stop on the web.com Tour (formerly Nationwide).
“They thought about getting a flight,” Kevin Kohles said. “But that would have been about $600, so they just decided to rent a car and drive it.”
If Ben continues to win at the current rate, he should be able to buy an airplane _ maybe an airlines _ soon.
It began when Kohles won Atlanta’s Dogwood Invitational amateur in June and received bid to play in the web.com Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational at Columbus, Ohio after Peter Uihlein withdrew late.
At that point, Kohles changed his plans and turned pro a month or so before he originally had planned, which would have been after the Aug. 13-19 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills, Colo.
Kohles won his first pro start on the difficult Ohio State Scarlet Course with a 12-under 272 and after a playoff triumph over Luke Guthrie. Kohles sank a 22-foot birdie putt on the first sudden death hole.
After Sunday’s win Until the and last weekend at the Cox Classic in Omaha, he’s already up to No. 2 on the web.com money list.
The top 25 winners on the tour earn berths on the PGA Tour for 2013. No. 1 on the web.com list is Casey Wittenberg, who has entered 15 Web.com tournaments, won two and leads Kohles by less than $30,000.
At Omaha on Sunday, Kohles’ 9-under 62 allowed him to wipe out a two-stroke deficit at day’s start and won by three strokes.
With 11 more tournaments on the schedule, there’s no way to comprehend what Kohles might accomplish.
But given his start, Kohles is virtually certain to land sponsor’s exemptions to at least a few PGA events, one of which could very well be the Aug. 16-19 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro. That’s the tournament in which Raleigh’s Webb Simpson scored his first pro win last season.
“I’m hoping to get a spot in Greensboro for sure. That would be great,” Kohles said. “I know there’s some talk of that possibility going on, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I’d love it if it would work out.”
An example of how fast the Triangle golf dynamic can change: Kohles said Simpson, the former Broughton High star, was a role model. Simpson will turn 27 Wednesday.
“My dad took me to see Webb when he won the ACC championship in 2008,” Kohles said. “I followed his career in high school and college, and all the other golfers, especially the Green Hope guys. Coach (David) Allen was a great influence for me.”
This week, Simpson and the big tour players will be in Kiawah Island (S.C.) for the PGA Championship.
Kohles and Almand will be in Springfield, Mo. for the Dr Pepper Price Cutter Charity Championship at the Highland Springs Country Club course. The tournament purse is $650,000 with the winner’s share at $112,500.
“I’d love to be at the PGA, but maybe I’ll be there next year or one day,” Kohles said. “It’s great to be where I am, too, and just having this much good fortune so early. I couldn’t ask for more. I realize it can’t go on forever, but it’s fun trying.”