Local notes: Aiken’s Kevin Kisner making his move

09/07/2013 9:45 PM

09/07/2013 9:46 PM

Timing is everything, a fact Kevin Kisner is proving this year in Web.com competition on his way to playing on the 2014 PGA Tour.

First, the Aiken native who starred at the University of Georgia won an early season Web.com tourney. The victory put him in prime position to secure one of the PGA berths set aside for the year’s top-25 money winners — and provided a cushion for a mid-season slump.

Then, in the Web.com playoffs that started last week, he tied for third. The earnings in the four playoff tournaments provide the ranking for next year’s PGA Tour, and the lofty finish provided a safety net for his miss-the-cut performance in the Web.com tourney that ends today.

“The good first week takes the pressure off, just like winning early did,” said Kisner, who finished 13th on the regular-season money list. “Next year’s seeding will be based on these four tournaments, so it’s a plus to get a good start.”

The qualification rules for the PGA Tour that started this year increased the importance of the Web.com season, and winning the season’s third tournament, in Chile, provided Kisner with a jolt of confidence. His third-round 61 sent him flying up the leader board, and his final 68 earned the title.

The winner’s check of $117,000 meant a few more top-10s would assure a place among “The 25,” and he did that, placing 13th. But a mid-season skid caused concern, and he changed his swing coaches.

“I had to simplify my swing thoughts and just get back to being Kevin Kisner,” he said of his move to work under John Tollery, who is based in Madison, Ga.

The change bore fruit with a tie for sixth in Knoxville, then his third in the playoff opener in Fort Wayne, Ind. The final two playoff tourneys will be in Columbus, Ohio, and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. After a week off, the revised 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule begins with the events that previously formed the fall challenge.

That means Kisner will be back in the major leagues with the obvious goal of improving on his 2012 rookie PGA Tour season. Although he had a top-10 in the RBC Canadian Open that year, he fell back to the 2013 Web.com Tour.

“Experience will make a difference, absolutely,” he said. “Having been there (on the PGA Tour), I know more about the courses, the travel, where to stay and such. If it’s your first year, you’re learning everything, and that makes for some long weeks.

“That first year, you don’t know the courses, so you’re practicing and playing 18 holes on Monday and Tuesday, then you try to get in nine holes before the pro-am on Wednesday. That takes a lot of work, then you tee off for real on Thursday. They guys who have been out here for years know the courses and don’t have so much preparation, and that’s an obvious advantage.”

For now, his focus is on finishing the playoffs strongly.

Chip shots

Clemson assistant golf coach Jordan Byrd earned a spot in the U.S. Mid-Amateur — set for next month in Birmingham — in qualifying in Durham, N.C. ... The Dunes Golf and Beach Club, the Robert Trent Jones design that put Myrtle Beach on the world golf map, has reopened with new Champion Bermuda greens, increased length, several new bunkers and a larger driving range. The famed 13th hole, aptly called Waterloo, now can be stretched to 620 yards. ... Kevin Smetlz has replaced Hank Haney as lead instructor at the International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island.

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