The Unvanquished Golfer
Winning a professional golf tournament is no small feat. The usual size of a full-field event is 156 players, and 155 of those guys aren’t going to win. Even in reduced-field events, such as last weekend’s Bridgestone Invitational (78 entrants) or The Masters (95 players this year), any given player’s chances of winning are tiny.
The same thing applies on an annual basis. In 2011, for example, there were 49 sanctioned events on the PGA Tour. If you exclude the Fall Series, the regular season and playoffs comprised 41 events. Including the alternate-field gatherings, you had 35 different winners. (If you add the fall series, you get five more.) Thus far in 2012, we’ve had 26 different winners (plus four more in alternate-filed events). This means that somewhere in the vicinity of 20% of the golfers who tee it up in any given year win at least once, and correspondingly, 80% go winless over the course of the year.
That brings us to the Web.com Tour, the developmental tour for the PGA. Two weeks ago, a talented amateur named Ben Kohles, fresh off the golf team at the University of Virginia, decided to turn pro in advance of the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. He then went out and won that event in a playoff, giving him the temporary distinction of being undefeated as a professional golfer.
As great as that story is, we haven’t gotten to the point of this essay yet. Last weekend, in his sophomore event, the Cox Classic in Omaha, Kohles entered Sunday’s final round two shots out of the lead. He fired a closing 62 (9 under par) to claim a three-stroke win in his second-ever pro start. Two tournaments into his pro career, he’s still undefeated. This brings to mind the thoroughbred racehorse Big Brown, who won all of his first five races (including the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes); as he lined up for the Belmont Stakes that year, he had never beheld the sight of another horse crossing the finish line.
In addition to a great deal of attention, Kohles has already earned his 2013 PGA Tour card, since he’s now assured of finishing in the top 25 in the Web.com Tour this year. One more win and he gets promoted to the PGA Tour instantly. This doesn’t make him The Next Tiger, or even The Next Jason Dufner; the competition at the next level is fierce, and you should temper your expectations for his 2013 fantasy-golf contributions. But you’ll definitely be seeing his name in lineups next season.
And maybe even this season. On Thursday, the Web.com Tour convenes in Springfield, Missouri for the Price Cutter Charity Championship. Yes, Kohles is in the field, bringing his perfect record with him. The man knows how to win.