Former Virginia golfer set for PGA Tour in '13

Tradition says that golfers who make a hole-in-one buy drinks for those in the clubhouse. When he scored the first ace of his life Wednesday at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, there was no way for recent University of Virginia graduate Ben Kohles to claim he couldn't afford it.

As winner of the first two events he entered on the Tour, Kohles scored a high-paying summer job and in the process landed another that has the potential to be even more lucrative. In 2013, Kohles advances to the PGA Tour.

"It's a dream come true since I started playing," Kohles said. "To have it happen this fast is pretty special. I'm having a blast."

Neediest Kids Championship
When » Thursday-Sunday
Where » TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm
TV » Golf Channel

On Thursday, Kohles tees off in the Neediest Kids Championship at Avenel, hoping to add to his amazing bounty in his first year as a professional. He won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational and the Cox Classic on back-to-back weekends in July and August.

Kohles, a late-bloomer from Cary, N.C., who didn't even try out for his high school team as a freshman, had a stellar career at Virginia, capturing the ACC player of the year award twice.

A month after graduation in May, Kohles won a big amateur event, the Dogwood Invitational in Atlanta.

In July he was listed as an alternate for a Tour event courtesy of being named a second-team All-American. When a first-team choice, Peter Uihlein, declined to play, Kohles received a call. Filling out forms upon entering the tournament, Kohles checked a box indicating he was a professional, thus declaring himself eligible to collect prize money. In golf, it's that simple to turn pro.

"I had decided to do it when I heard I was in the tournament," said Kohles, 22. "I knew my game was really close. It was just a matter of putting it all together. It couldn't have happened at a better time."

In winning the Nationwide in a playoff, Kohles became $144,000 richer. The following week, Kohles captured the Cox Classic by three strokes, worth another $117,000, and vaulted to No. 2 on the Tour money list. He currently ranks fourth; the top 25 earn a promotion to the PGA.

One of the happiest over the sudden success of Kohles was his caddie, Will Almand, a neighborhood buddy and longtime golf companion. Almand agreed to work for Kohles after finishing up his golf career at UNC Greensboro and will caddie for him next year.

"He got at least 10 percent," Kohles said with a smile of the bonus he gave Almand.

Even with all he has accomplished in his first few dizzying months as a professional, Kohles had yet to make a hole-in-one. He took care of it Wednesday with a 3-iron at the 225-yard third hole at Avenel.

One of the amateurs in his group was former WJLA anchorman Paul Berry.

"I told him, 'Remember this is a corporate outing, so charge the corporation,'?" Berry said. "It will save you a lot of money."

Just one of the lessons Kohles has learned quickly as an emerging professional.