Second win for Kohles this month
HUNTSVILLE – Brian Hughes knew the shot was good the second Ben Kohles hit it.
A former Korn Ferry Tour player himself who still has visions of returning to professional golf, Kohles’ caddie knows a thing or two about good golf.
“He had been hitting it good all week,” said Hughes. “As soon as it came off and I saw the line, I was just hoping it would sit. Sure enough, it landed about half an inch from the middle of the hole. I don’t know how it didn’t hit the flag. It was pretty awesome for him to hit that shot.”
Kohles’ 7-iron, playing 162 yards into a strong north win , flew true to the target. It landed no more than three inches from the cup and rolled out to about four feet away on the second playoff hole of the Korn Ferry Tour’s HomeTown Lenders Championship. After Ben Silverman’s birdie putt slid past, Kohles, the former University of Virginia golfer, calmly knocked in his winning birdie putt.
It was the second win of the month for the Korn Ferry Tours points leader. With another win, he’ll earn a promotion to the PGA Tour. Even if he doesn’t win again this season, he’s almost assuredly wrapped up a spot there for next year.
Kohles finished at 13-under-par 197 along with Silverman, who double-bogeyed the final hole to let Kohles have a chance to win in the playoff. Poor weather on Thursday and Friday forced the tournament to convert to 54 holes.
David Skinns (65) and Frankie Capan II (66) finished a shot back at 198.
Just getting into the playoff was a bit of a miracle for Kohles, who shot one of two bogey-free final rounds at The Ledges Sunday. He narrowly avoided a penalty area on the 17th hole and salvaged par, leaving him two shots behind Silverman going to the last hole.
Silverman opened the door when his drive on the final hole went left into a penalty area and he ended up making double bogey while Kohles made a testy 5-footer for par.
“Ben gave me a little gift there – he played great all week – and I was fortunate to be able to close it in the playoff.”
On the first playoff hole, Kohles short-sided himself in a greenside bunker on his second shot and eventually made a 10-footer to extend the playoff.
A two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, Kohles turned professional in 2012 and won his first two Korn Ferry Tour starts; he remains the only player in Tour history to accomplish the feat. Kohles earned his PGA Tour card at the end of 2012, only to lose it the following year and spend seven more seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour.
In 41 starts in the combined 2020-21 season, Kohles posted seven top-10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes, en route to a PGA Tour card. The winless season left Kohles without an exemption for 2023 after he finished No. 161 on the 2021-22 FedExCup Playoffs and Eligibility Points List.
Rather than play with conditional status, Kohles teed it up at Final Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament last fall. A T6 finish earned him guaranteed starts for the first 12 events of the 2023 season. Kohles won the sixth event of the year for fully exempt status.
“You win those first two right out of the gate and you know you can do it,” Kohles said. “I won a bunch in college and at every level, but a ten-year gap puts some doubt in your mind. Just to be able to get that win again really gave me a ton of confidence coming in here.”
HomeTown Lenders Championship notebook
• Auburn University alum and Auburn resident Blayne Barber (T7/-9), a conditional member in the “Past Champion 5-10 Years” category who Monday qualified into this week’s event for his first start of the season, closes in 5-under 65 and earns a spot in the next event (AdventHealth Championship, scheduled for May 18-21) with a top-25 and his highest finish since a T7 at the 2021 Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna
• Making his ninth start of the season and second career appearance at this event, University of Alabama alum and Birmingham resident Wilson Furr (T7/-9) logs final-round even-par 70 to solidify his first top-25 and earn a spot in the AdventHealth Championship. It was a redemption of sorts for Furr, who was penalized last week when he and five others inadvertently took a shuttle between holes. At the time, it looked like Furr would be on the outside of the Tour’s reshuffle after eight events. But he got into the HomeTown Lenders Championship, made the most of it and moved from No. 152 to No. 78 on the points list, almost assuring him starts for the rest of the season.
• Earlier in the day, Furr completed a course-record 9-under 61 in the second round; his career-low round in PGA Tour-sanctioned play prior to this week was a 7-under 63 in a PGA Tour Canada event last year, while his career-low round in nine previous Korn Ferry Tour starts was an 8-under 64 in the second round of the 2023 Club Car Championship at The Landings Golf & Athletic Club.
• Auburn University alum Trace Crowe (T11/-8), the last man in the field who gained entry when Chris Baker withdrew prior to the first round Friday morning, earns a spot in the AdventHealth Championship with a career-high finish in his third start of the season; his only top-25 in 19 previous Korn Ferry Tour starts was a T18 at the 2022 NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank last May
• Auburn University alum and Birmingham resident Michael Johnson (T17/-7) follows back-to-back 4-under 66s with 1-over 71 in the final round, solidifying his fourth top-25 of the season and highest finish since a T15 at the 2022 Live and Work in Maine Open.
Editor’s note: The Korn Ferry Tour staff contributed to this story.
Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News
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Featured image courtesy of HomeTown Lenders Championship and Korn Ferry Tour