Published 8/3/2011 in Pro-Am
By BRETT MARSHALL
Like many young professionals, Kenny Coakley has been pursuing his dream of playing golf on the big stage, otherwise known as the PGA Tour.
It's what guys like Steve Jones, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Lee Janzen, and most recently, Gary Woodland, dreamed about when they competed in the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am.
Each of those went on to stardom on the Tour, with Jones, Furyk, Cink and Janzen being major championship winners while Woodland has made his splash this year, with earnings of more than $2.6 million and his first Tour victory earlier this year.
Coakley, now 27, has competed in college against Woodland with Coakley at the University of Colorado and Woodland at the University of Kansas. But right now, he sits at a crossroads in his golf career.
But on Tuesday, he rekindled that flame as he shot a 1-under-par 70 to share low-pro honors at the Ladies Pro-Am of the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am/Adams Golf Pro Tour Series, which was played at The Golf Club at Southwind. Each of them earned $550 as they split the money of the top three spots.
"I haven't been playing a lot and to be truthful, the traveling over the last two or three years got me down," Coakley said. "It's like I arrived at the end of my road and I've been entertaining the job market as a way of finally moving on."
Coakley earned a degree in economics in 2006 at Colorado and then began his pursuit of a pro career. He has been close, reaching the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School more than once before seeing that dream go up in smoke with scores not quite good enough for that next level.
"You know, there are 20 guys here who are good enough to compete out there (on the PGA Tour), but they just haven't gotten that next break you need," Coakley said. "At this stage of what I'm doing, I'm not putting all the eggs in one basket. If something doesn't change soon, then I think it's time to be doing something more stable."
Coakley, who now calls Bluffton, S.C., home, shared low honors with Denver's Nick Mason, runner-up in Monday's Ulysses Shootout, and Brandon Frankhouser of Conroe, Texas.
Four players — Mitche Boles, Jason Eslinger, Clay Fullick and Tyler Neal were next at 71. Each player earned $50.
He and his amateur group started on the par-4 second hole, which he promptly double bogeyed.
"I didn't come out and warm up so I guess that wasn't a good decision," Coakley said. "That won't be in my game plan for (today)."
Coakley had birdies at the third, fifth, sixth and nine holes to rally and finish that side a 1-under-par. His birdie on the par-3 ninth came when he holed a shot from the bank bunker.
Coakley said the momentum of Tuesday's round would be helpful for his start of today's 72-hole event.
"Regardless of conditions or what's going on, it's nice to play well," Coakley said. "You don't want to limp into a tournament."
The only time he thought he lost sight of his round was on the par-3 16th where he had another double bogey.
"I just got too aggressive and played hockey puck with it around the hole," Coakley said.
Amateurs: The winning amateur team was comprised of three Garden City High School girls team members. Abbi Shaddix, Audrey Gerber and Abbey Campbell played with Monday's Ulysses Shootout winner, Tyler Neal of Tucson, Ariz. The group combined for a 64, but since the three high schoolers are not able to accept merchandise prizes, the top spot was divided amongst four teams, all shooting 66s. Those teams included Debbie Guy, Suzie O'Brate and Suzie Gooden; Jill Durst, Deann Mann and Melinda Harrington; Jenna Shook, Wendy Vollertsen and Jamie Warner; and Deanne Gillen, Jamie Bradford and Libby Lewis.
For Shaddix, it was the final event before she and her Lady Buffs' teammates gear up for the 2011 prep season, which begins the last week of this month at Hays.
"I'm excited for the golf season," Shaddix said.
Shaddix will be a sophomore after earning all-Western Athletic Conference honors along with teammates Campbell, Mackenzie Thayer, Anna Robinson and the graduated Taylor Morrow.
"I've definitely gained a lot of experience playing this summer," said Shaddix, who cited her competition in the Kansas Junior Golf Association's summer tournament program where she competed with boys in the 14-15 age division and qualified for the statewide Section Team Championship. "It was crazy long; longer yardages than what we play in high school. I think it will make those courses play shorter, easier for us."
Shaddix said by getting stronger and improving her swing, she has added about 50 yards to her tee shots.
"I'm just swinging at it better, overall the short game has improved and my putting has carried me through in a number of events," Shaddix said. "I think all of us are motivaed to come back this season and finish off what we didn't accomplish last year (winning state)."
In all, 12 teams competed in the annual event that switches between Southwind and Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
Sixty amateur teams will join the competition on Friday and Saturday. The field of pros will be sliced to the low 45 and ties for the final 36 holes. Wil Collins of Albuquerque, N.M., will return as the defending champion.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.
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