Cavalier Corner

June 2012

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he refers to him as "an ultra-competitor." "The kids on our team say they can't beat M him at video games, ping pong or pool," Sargent said. "He has a knack for hand-eye coordination. He's unique in that aspect." Kohles agrees wholeheartedly with his coach. "I've always been really competitive," he said. "Even when I was growing up, I always tried to win everything. "As I got older and began playing com- petitive people, that helped all of us get a lot better … being that competitive." BY MIKE SCANDURA OST ATHLETES ARE competitors. When Vir- ginia golf coach Bowen Sargent is discussing fourth-year Ben Kohles, was a freshman is my attitude has changed drastically over four years. It's not so much you're expecting a lot, but you want to play well. If you don't play well, you can get angry and that can affect you on the course. "I've learned it doesn't matter what shot you make or what shot you hit," Kohles con- tinued. "You go to the next shot and have a new mindset. You have a calm attitude. I'm pumped about an eagle. But if I make triple-bogey or even a par on an easy par- four, I'd be upset at myself because I didn't make a better shot. That would affect me on the next hole. But I've matured as I've gotten older." That Kohles would be in this situation in ULTIMATE COMPETITOR the first place was beyond comprehension when he was playing for Green Hope High in Cary, N.C. "He wasn't highly recruited coming out since he first stepped on a course at Vir- ginia? This much better: • He became UVa's all-time wins leader (seven) with victories this spring at the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate and the Schenkel Invitational. • He set a Virginia tournament scoring record and a record for score in relation to par with an 18-under-par 198 to win the Schenkel. Kohles thus became one of only seven players in ACC history to record a 54- hole tournament score below 200. • Last fall he earned a top-10 finish at The World's "Top 50 Players to Watch" list. • As a third-year, Kohles was named the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate — the 19th of his career. • Also last fall, he was named to Golf ACC Player of the Year for a second con- secutive season. He was only the fifth player to repeat as the winner of the award since it was first presented in 1992. "Being ultra-competitive fuels the fire when I'm not playing well," Kohles said. "All you can do is practice and keep trying to get better. "Coach Sargent obviously has helped me a lot, including with the mental aspect of the game. But what's really helped me since I 16 ◆ CAVALIER CORNER of high school," Sargent said. "I think only East Carolina and Virginia recruited him. But we saw something in him … he was underrated. "I sat down with him and told him he had to gain 20 pounds and 20 yards of distance. He's done all of that." As a high school sophomore, there wasn't any truth to the rumor that Kohles was so skinny that when he turned sideways he was invisible. But it was close. "I was about 5-7 as a sophomore," Kohles said. "From being a junior in high school to being a freshman in college I grew about six inches. I got taller, but I always struggled with gaining weight [currently he 'tips the scales' at 165 pounds]. But I'm definitely a lot stronger than I was." Besides undergoing a growth spurt, Kohles did what he had to do to gain weight. "I didn't work out much in high school … maybe once a week," he said. "I got more serious in college, plus I started eating a lot better. "The older guys on the team made me eat a ton of food and stuff myself. Eating a lot better and working out were the main things." Kohles also did something else after early on he became one of the ACC's top golfers and started enjoying the type of success that can lead a young athlete to feel pressure to succeed regardless of the tournament in which he's playing. "I've talked a lot with Dr. Bob Rotella, who's a sports psychologist in Charlottes- ville," he said. "He's definitely helped me in terms of not thinking about that stuff. Obvi- ously, golf is a mental game. You're going to feel pressure at some time. "You play one shot at a time. Play your game and let the other stuff fall into place. Go out there and play golf and have fun. You get a lot of information going into each practice round and you dissect the course. You know you've been practicing well so you should play well." Sounds simple, doesn't it? Not quite. Fourth-Year Golfer Ben Kohles Is Driven To Be The Best He Can Be How much "better" has Kohles become "He's always been a good putter, but there were a couple of things in his swing that needed to be fixed," Sargent said. "He blended in well with our program. We have a program that's willing to help kids make changes. We felt his deficiencies and our strengths as a coaching staff kind of matched up. "His swing has improved. A lot of it was factors of strength. He wasn't strong enough to hold clubs in the right positions." Kohles also possesses something else which separates him from the average or even above-average collegiate golfer. "For guys like Ben, it's usually the in- tangibles that separate you from others," Sargent said. "To me, Ben is so much like Tiger Woods in that he really enjoys win- ning. A lot of people enjoy competitive golf, but when it comes time to win they fold. "Guys like Tiger enjoy the moment instead of being back in 10th place. Ben's like that. Even on tour, probably 80 percent are happy to play and earn money, but they shy away from winning. Others enjoy the limelight. There are a handful of guys that want to be there every week and Ben's like that." ◆ Kohles became Virginia's all-time wins leader (seven) with two victories this spring. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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