Golf | Back to basics, local pro Chris Kennedy is on a roll

jdill@bradenton.comJuly 9, 2014 


EAST MANATEE -- It was at the U.S. Open local qualifier back in early May when things finally clicked for Lakewood Ranch's Chris Kennedy.

The Cardinal Mooney alum and current Cougars boys golf head coach wasn't playing that well at Fox Hollow Golf Club in Trinity.

His odds of advancing weren't good, so Kennedy reverted to the basics.

"I just focused on my targets and where to leave it," Kennedy said. "It was then that I just kind of learned to trust my instincts and my feel and my athleticism. And just use your mind."

The change has solidified his game to the point that he has scorched the West Florida Golf Tour's Summer Series. He leads the Summer Series money list with $5,865.

The top two players at the end of the 13-week series will be awarded $2,500 for the PGA Tour Latinoamerica Qualifying School. The series ends Sept. 10.

"We don't charge a lot of money to play in the events, so we have to find creative ways to ... give something back," WFGT tournament director Christian Bartolacci said. "And our whole goal is to help get people to the next level. And we feel like PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latin America are two great places for guys to move up to the next level. Because they are owned by the PGA Tour and run by the PGA Tour, that's the next step for guys that are above our tour. So if we can help them get there and provide two players the chance to get to Q-School, we'll do that."

At the professional level, the mental part of the game determines who excels and who struggles.

For Kennedy, the maturation process has led to knowing when to attack and when to play more conservatively.

The results have created more consistent scoring.

"When I started hitting the ball a little sideways, I was thinking too much," Kennedy said. "I was getting too technical and worrying about this and that instead of just playing golf. Focus on your targets and where you are trying to hit it, and I'm a good enough player to learn that my athleticism is going to take over."

This week's WFGT stop is at Waterlefe Golf & River Club, where Kennedy has compiled a two-day total of 11-under par.

That number is good enough for a four-shot lead heading into Wednesday's final round. Kennedy won at Laurel Oak Country Club in Sarasota two weeks ago and did not play at Lake Jovita last week in Dade City.

Since the WFGT's Summer Series began in late May, all 11 of Kennedy's rounds have been under par.

"He's a player that understands it," Bartolacci said. "He's staying in one area. He's playing in all of the events on our tour. He's keeping his costs down. He's gaining confidence. He's playing well. And a good player is going to make money on our tour; that's just the way it is. He's set himself up now that he's feeling confident. ... When you play with confidence in this game and you are comfortable with where you are at, it is going to be tough to beat."

Aiding in his comfortable approach has been the balance that has come off the course. Kennedy married his college sweetheart in May right before the Summer Series began.

"I've kind of been playing good ever since," Kennedy said. "Wedding planning gets a little stressful. So you have that in the back of your mind when you are playing and practicing. A lot of stuff goes on. ... It probably took some pressure off. ... My wife's a school teacher and she has the whole summer off, which has been nice. She's kind of shared the summer with me. Watched me play a little bit and when I come home, she's home and we kind of relax in the afternoon and kind of forget about golf."

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