Virginia sophomore men's golfer Ben Kohles joined some elite company this week when he climbed into the top 10 of the college golf individual standings. He is ranked No. 5 by Golfstat and No. 9 by Golfweek. Kohles' rise in the standings comes after a first-place finish at the Cleveland Golf/Palmetto Intercollegiate in Aiken, S.C. He shot 7-under 63 in the second round on his way to capturing medalist honors by three shots. Kohles opened the season with a win at the Maryland Intercollegiate. He is the first Cavalier to pick up a pair of wins in the same year since current PGA Tour Steve Marino did it during the 2001-02 season.
What was your second round like at the Palmetto. Was that your best single-round score?
Kohles: I shot 64 in the Western Junior a while back, so it was my best score. I started the round on No. 2 because we were playing the second 18 of a 36 that day and I birdied my first hole and then I made par thru nine. Then over my last 10 holes I was six under. I had a bunch of good chances on the front nine too, but I was actually pretty happy just to be one-under at the time because the course was playing pretty tough. On the back nine I just started making everything with the putter.
I was pretty excited because that was the best round I had played and I wasn't really sure, going into the spring, how I was going to play in a tournament because of the lack of playing time we had because of the weather. I was just glad it all came together.
Does winning two tournaments in a single season exceed your own goals and expectations for the year?
Kohles: Coming into the year I was playing pretty good. I made the U.S. Amateur and that was pretty sweet because it was the first time I made that tournament. I have won tournaments before and I knew that, after a year's experience in college, it gives you a lot of confidence. My goal was to win once this year and now that I've done it twice, I just want to try and keep on winning.
Confidence is a big part of the sport. What do these victories do for your confidence?
Kohles: To know that you can go out in a good field with a lot of good players and to beat all of them - that really gives a big boost to your confidence.
Your confidence was a lot lower after last year's NCAA Championships when you struggled at Inverness Course in Toledo. What did you do to get your game back?
Kohles: I played a lot during the summer. I entered a lot of tournaments. I think just playing tournaments, more than anything else, really helps you. You just have to forget about the last round you played and just move on. That really helps.
Also, I think my putting was a big part of the problem last spring. Over the summer I actually switched putters and that just started really good and it seemed to lower my score. It gets you out of the frame of mind of your old putter and just gives you a new look. It gave me some confidence.
How difficult was it to prepare for this spring when the team's practice area was buried under snow during most of January and February because of the record snowfall in Charlottesville?
Kohles: It was annoying. We lost a lot of golf balls (laughs) because we did not have a big enough space to hit into. We got through it and now it's good weather.
We only played, maybe five times (practice rounds) total. I'm sure a lot of other teams were able to play a lot more rounds. They didn't have the same weather problems. I don't know what it was. I just had my game going and I'm happy.
What are you going to do with your scorecard from the second round at the Palmetto when you shot 63? Coach Sargent said you will probably give it to your dad.
Kohles: He always gets a logo ball at all of the courses we play and he keeps my scorecards. I don't really know why. I'm going to really enjoy giving this one to him.