Nephew of PGA winner Russ Cochran claims first NGA Tour victory-
Georgetown, Ky. - May 20, 2012 - After posting three top-three finishes in the first eight events of 2012, Rich Cochran III showed he had the game to compete with the best golfers this side of the Nationwide and PGA Tours.
This week, Cochran of Paducah, Ky., showed he could not only compete with them, but he could beat them as well.
The former Middle Tennessee State golfer shot a 6-under 66 in the final round of the Cherry Blossom Classic presented by Toyota and Modern Distributors on Sunday to earn his first NGA Pro Golf Tour win by one shot over Nemanja Savic, marking the fourth time in five events a Kentucky native has won at Cherry Blossom.
“It’s all about confidence,” said Cochran, finished with rounds of 71-63-65-66 for a 23-under 265 total. “In the back of my mind, I’ve always felt like I could win out here, but until you do it there’s still that doubt.”
Cochran, the nephew of PGA Tour winner Russ Cochran, started the final round four shots behind Savic, but he closed the gap to one shot with four birdies in a row on Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7.
“When I shot 63 in the second round, I made five birdies in row, so I knew I could make them in bunches,” said Cochran. “I nearly had a hole in one on No. 4 and hit it between eight and 12 feet on the other holes and made the putts. It was an important streak because it gave me a shot early in the round and I didn’t have to worry about making a lot of birdies late.”
After the birdie streak, Cochran was unable to put any circles on the scorecard over the next eight holes, but he didn’t put any squares on it either. While Cochran stalled, Justin Smith of Saint Paul, Minn., jumped into the fray by going 5-under through 13 holes to join Cochran in second at 21-under par.
Savic, who made just two bogeys over the first three rounds, reached 23-under par with a birdie on No. 12, but the NGA Carolina Series winner stumbled with a double bogey on No. 14 and Cochran made the most of the opening.
Cochran birdied No. 16 to reach 22 under and added another birdie on No. 17 to take the outright lead at 23-under par. After a stress-free par on No. 18, Cochran headed for the clubhouse with the lead.
“I was playing a little conservative during that par stretch, trying not to mess up,” said Cochran. “I told myself not to worry about the money or the win and just play golf. I had a good number on 16 and hit it close, then I made a lucky birdie on 17.”
Following the double bogey, Savic rebounded with a birdie on No. 16 and had a chance to reach 23 under on the final hole, but he failed to convert his birdie try, giving Cochran his first Pro Series win in his 20th start.
“I’m not going to lie, I was fighting back the tears,” said Cochran. “I’ve been in that situation before and I all but choked. I had to call my mom and dad to let them know I won because they were there for me when I struggled to finish the deal.”
With the victory, Cochran also takes the lead in the “Race for the PHS Wichita Open” Nationwide Tour exemption, which will be awarded to the NGA member that accumulates the most winnings during the Cherry Blossom Classic, Knoxville Classic and Comsouth Classic.
“That’s nice, but I’m going to enjoy the text messages and phone calls today and get back to work tomorrow,” said Cochran. “Nobody on the range is going to care that I won the last event. My uncle (Russ) called and told me that it’s not hard to find your stretch, but it’s hard to stay there. ”
Despite coming up just shy of his first win, Savic’s second-place finish was his best showing on the Pro Series and earned the Raleigh, N.C., resident $11,378.
After reaching 21 under, Smith, a former University of Minnesota All-American, finished the round with five straight pars and tied for third with Andrew Ruthkoski of Muskegon, Mich., and Brian Richey of Lakeland, Fla. The trio earned $7,145 each.
Chris Naegel (Chesterfield, Mo.) shot a 5-under 67 in the final round to move from T9 into sixth place at 20-under par. Kevin Hall (Cincinnati, Ohio), Randall Hutchison (Traverse City, Mich.) and 2011 NGA Rookie of the Year Ryan Spears (Del City, Okla.) finished T7 at 19-under par.
Joseph Ida (Fort Scott, Kan.), Cedric Scotto (Mulhouse, France), Manuel Villegas (Medellin, Colombia), Travis Bertoni (Paso Robles, Calif.) and Joseph Kinney (Antioch, Ill.) finished the event 17-under par and tied for 10th.
For full-field scores, click here.
The NGA Tour will return to action next week with the playing of the Knoxville Classic at Three Ridges Golf Course in Knoxville, Tenn.
Third Round Update: Sunday Shootout Shaping Up at Cherry Blossom-
Georgetown, Ky. - May 19, 2012 - After earning the first-round lead with a 9-under 63 on Thursday, Nemanja Savic said he didn’t know what to expect for the rest of the week because he’d never been in that position before on the Pro Series.
Perhaps, not setting expectations is the best way to defuse the gravity of the situation.
Savic of Belgrade, Serbia, shot a 6-under 66 in the third round of the Cherry Blossom Classic presented by Toyota and Modern Distributors on Saturday to reach 21-under par and retake the lead in the NGA Pro Golf Tour event.
Savic, who has one win on the NGA Carolina Series, started the third round just one shot behind leader Ryan Spears, but that margin quickly grew to three strokes after Spears birdied the opening hole and Savic bogeyed the second.
Undeterred, Savic rallied back with three birdies to make the turn in 2-under par and added four birdies on the backside to move three shots clear of Spears and Joseph Kinney going into Sunday’s final round.
“It’s good to be leading again, especially after the third round,” said Savic, who resides in Raleigh, N.C. “I got off to a little bit of a rocky start on the front, but after I made a birdie on No. 5, the six- and seven-footers started to go in. I made a couple of long ones that my partners probably weren’t happy about, but that’s golf.”
This will be Savic’s first time sleeping on the third-round lead, but he feels his early struggles Saturday will benefit him on Sunday.
“Getting off to the rocky start I did today is going to help me tomorrow,” said Savic. “I know that if something happens, I need to stay patient. There are a lot of good players chasing me and I know they're going to come at me. In the meantime, I’m going to do what I’ve done the first three days, keep the ball in front of me and hopefully keep making putts.”
After jumping out to the three-shot lead, Spears gave one shot back to the field with a bogey on No. 4. While it was his lone blemish of the day, the 2011 NGA Rookie of the Year from Del City, Okla., never got any momentum going on the 6,842-yard layout at Cherry Blossom Golf and Country Club in the third round. The former Wichita State Shocker finished with a 2-under 70 and is 18-under par heading into Sunday.
Kinney of Antioch, Ill., used an 8-under 64 to leapfrog up the leaderboard in the third round. The four-year letterman at Kansas State carded six birdies en route to a front-side 30. Though his momentum stalled a bit on the back side, Kinney chipped in for eagle on No. 17 to join Spears in a tie for second.
Paducah’s Rick Cochran III kept himself within earshot of the lead with a 7-under 65 in the third round. The former Middle Tennessee State stalwart and nephew of PGA winner Russ Cochran had eight birdies and one bogey on Saturday to join Brian Richey of Lakeland, Fla., in a tie for fourth at 17-under par.
Travis Bertoni (Paso Robles, Calif.), Justin Smith (Franklin, Pa.) and Manuel Villegas (Medellin, Colombia) are tied for sixth at 16-under par. Bertoni carded a 7-under 65, while Smith and Villegas shot 66 and 67, respectively, on Saturday.
Andrew Ruthkoski (Muskegon, Mich.) made the most of Moving Day. The Michigan State alumnus shot a Saturday-low 63 to jump from T48 into a tie for ninth with Chris Naegel (Chesterfield, Mo.), Cedric Scotto (Mulhouse, France) and Randall Hutchison (Traverse City, Mich.) at 15-under par.
A day after shooting a tournament-low 62 in the second round, Adam Hogue (Lakewood Ranch, Fla.) shot a 3-under 69 and slipped from T3 into a tie for 13th with Joseph Ida (Fort Scott, Kan.) and Kevin Hall (Cincinnati, Ohio) at 14-under par.
Drew Kittleson (Scottsdale, Ariz.) also started the day T3, but the 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up could only muster a 2-under 70 in the third round. The former All-American at Florida State will begin the final round 13-under par and tied for 16th with Brian Maurer (Richmond, Ind.).
For full-field scores, click here.
The final round of the Cherry Blossom Classic will start at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday. As always, admission is free.
Second Round Update: Spears shoots 63 to move out front-
Georgetown, Ky. - May 18, 2012 - Ryan Spears of Del City, Okla., shot a 9-under 63 in the second round of the Cherry Blossom Classic presented by Toyota and Modern Distributors and jumped to the top of the leaderboard on Friday.
After opening the NGA Pro Golf Tour event with a 7-under 65 on Thursday, Spears, a former Wichita State standout and 2011 NGA Rookie of the Year, carded 10 birdies and one bogey in the second round to move from third place into the outright lead at 16-under par.
“I’m hitting the ball in play and this course is very scorable when you have a lot of wedges in your hand,” said Spears, whose first win came in the 2011 Buffalo Run Casino Classic. “But I’ve been fortunate to put it in the right spots in the fairway and I’ve had a lot of good numbers and angles. I’ve had a lot of close opportunities and when you hit it that close, you’re going to start making some putts.”
The 2008 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year is one shot clear of first-round leader Nemanja Savic going into weekend play.
Savic of Belgrade, Serbia, backed his first-round 63 with a 6-under 66 on Friday. The NGA Carolina Series winner navigated the 6,842-yard layout at Cherry Blossom Golf and Country Club without a bogey and carded six birdies in the second round to reach 15-under par for the tournament.
Drew Kittleson of Scottsdale, Ariz., started the day in second place, but the former Florida State All-American slipped into a tie for third with a 3-under 69 in the second round. After going blemish-free in the opening round, Kittleson, the 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up, carded two bogeys and five birdies on Friday.
Adam Hogue of Lakewood Ranch, Fla., was in danger of missing the cut after shooting a 1-under 71 in the opening round, but the N.C. State alumnus shot a tournament-low 62 on Friday to vault into contention. Hogue birdied Nos. 1, 18 and eight holes in between to join Kittleson in a tie for third at 11-under par.
Manuel Villegas, the younger brother of Camilo Villegas from Medellin, Colombia, and Alex Johnson of Tucson, Ariz., will also head into the weekend T3 and 11-under par. Villegas shot a 6-under 66 in the second round, while Johnson shot a 5-under 67.
Paducah’s Rick Cochran III shot his way up the leaderboard with a 9-under 63 in the second round. The nephew of PGA winner Russ Cochran birdied his final five holes to reach 10-under par for the event and moved into a tie for sixth with Justin Smith (Franklin, Pa.), Brian Richey (Lakeland, Fla.) and Joseph Kinney (Antioch, Ill.).
Randall Hutchison (Traverse City, Mich.), Derek Bohlen (Fountain Hills, Ariz.), David Skinns (Lincoln, England), Kevin Hall (Cincinnati, Ohio), Chris Baker (Brownstown, Ind.), Cedric Scotto (Mulhouse, France), Travis Bertoni (Paso Robles, Calif.), Sebastian Szirmak (Toronto, Canada) and Brian Maurer (Richmond, Ind.) will start the third round T11 at 9-under par.
The cut was at 6-under par and several notables will not be around for the weekend. Mark Blakefield, a two-time Cherry Blossom champion from Maysville, finished T113 at even par, while 2010 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein of Orlando, Fla., finished T82 at 3-under par.
For full-field scores, click here.
The third round of the Cherry Blossom Classic will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday. As always, admission is free to the public.
First Round Update: Savic Shoots 63, Leads for 1st time on Pro Series-
Georgetown, Ky. - May 17, 2012 - Nemanja Savic of Belgrade, Serbia, carded a 9-under 63 in the opening round of the Cherry Blossom Classic presented by Toyota and Modern Distributors and finished the day atop the leaderboard in the NGA Pro Golf Tour event on Thursday.
Savic, who missed the cut in last year’s Cherry Blossom Classic, started the day with a 3-under 33 on the front side before torching the backside of the 6,842-yard layout with a 6-under 30. Savic finished the round with 10 birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over former Florida State All-American Drew Kittleson.
“The round sort of snowballed,” said Savic, who resides in Raleigh, N.C. “I thought it was going to be a testy day with the wet rough and cold, windy conditions, but I got off to a good start. I hit it to three feet on the first, made the putt and sort of grew on that.”
While Savic has a victory on the NGA Carolina Series, this is the first time he’s held the overnight lead in a Pro Series event.
“I’ve never done this, so I don’t know what to expect,” said Savic. “I’m looking forward to the second round, because it’s a fresh start. It’s the first day and there’s along way to go. I’m just going to keep the ball in front of me and, hopefully, keep making putts.”
Kittleson of Scottsdale, Ariz., recorded pars on his first two holes before running off five birdies in a row. After the birdie barrage, the 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up went nine holes without a birdie, but he finished with a flurry. The former Seminole finished birdie-eagle to reach 8-under par and move into second place.
Ryan Spears, the 2011 NGA Tour Rookie of the Year from Del City, Okla., posted six birdies, one eagle and one bogey in the opening round to finish the day in solo third at 7-under par.
Seth Fair (Brownsburg, Ind.), Alex Johnson (Tucson, Ariz.), Derek Bohlen (Fountain Hills, Ariz.) and Chas Narramore (Kingston, Tenn.) carded 6-under 66s at Cherry Blossom Golf and Country Club and finished the day T4.
In his second NGA Tour start, Peter Uihlein, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion from Orlando, Fla., shot a 5-under 67 and is tied for eighth with Manuel Villegas (Medellin, Colombia), Billy Shida (Duluth, Ga.), Travis Bertoni (Paso Robles, Calif.), Will Dottley (Pensacola, Fla.), Eric Steger (Noblesville, Ind.), Cameron Carrico (Owensboro), Randall Hutchison (Traverse City, Mich.), Kent Bulle (Glasgow, Ky.), Ryan Blaum (Coral Gables, Fla.), Jack Tyler (Orlando, Fla.) and Danny Lewis (Morrow, Ohio).
For full-field scores, click here.
The second round of the Cherry Blossom Classic will start at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. As always, admission is free to the public.
Mr. Kentucky Golf Mark Blakefield looking for 3rd win at Cherry Blossom-
Myrtle Beach, S.C. - It’s a well known fact that if you’re playing well on the NGA Pro Golf Tour there’s a good chance that your days on the No. 3 tour in the country are numbered.
Nearly 15 NGA Tour members have made the midseason move to the Nationwide Tour in the last two seasons. While the numbers askew the fact that Monday qualifiers can be a white-knuckle affair, the NGA Tour will alleviate the stress for one member following the next three Pro Series events.
The leading money winner that is a current NGA Tour member will earn an unrestricted exemption into the Nationwide Tour’s 2012 PHS Wichita Open and possibly a promotion, if they follow the lead of current NGA Tour member Matt Harmon.
Playing on an exemption secured by the NGA Tour, the former Michigan State standout and Big 10 Player of the Year earned his Nationwide Tour status earlier this year by finishing T2 in the Stonebrae Classic.
All three events in the “Race for the 2012 PHS Wichita Open Exemption”are of equal importance, but winning this week’s Cherry Blossom Classic presented by Toyota & Modern Distributors would be a great way to get the upper hand.
Last season, Brandon Brown held off 2012 Nationwide Tour winner Casey Wittenberg and 2010 Nationwide Tour member Justin Smith to win the Cherry Blossom Classic and posted a T3 and T15 finish in the final two events of the series to earn the 2011 Wichita Open exemption.
Considering he already has one win and is the Tour’s leading money winner, Brown of Shelbyville, Ky., would likely have been a favorite again this week, but the six-time NGA Tour winner will be playing in the Nationwide Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am after posting a top-25 finish in the Stadion Classic at UGA.
While one hometown hero will be absent this week, former Mr. Kentucky Golf Mark Blakefield will return to Cherry Blossom, where he has two wins and two top-10s in four starts.
Blakefield of Maysville, Ky., cruised to a three-shot win over Travis Bertoni in 2008 and edged Andy Pope and Chip Deason by two strokes in 2010.
“It’s great to win out here, but it is definitely icing on the cake to do it in front of my friends and family and in my home state,” said Blakefield after his win in 2010. “Knowing that I had 40 people in my corner cheering every time I did something right was certainly worthwhile.”
The former University of Kentucky standout will likely have a large contingent of friendly faces cheering him on this week, but he’ll have his hands full with the talent gathered for the fifth Cherry Blossom Classic.
Eight of the top 10 money earners on the NGA Tour will be in attendance as well as 20 NGA Tour winners, several former PGA and Nationwide Tour members and a horde of former collegiate All-Americans.
2012 NGA Tour winners David Skinns, Chas Narramore, Mark Silvers, Ken Looper and Tyson Alexander will be looking to become the first two-time winner this season on the NGA Tour.
Silvers, a former University of South Carolina golfer, earned his first career victory in the Avoca Classic; Alexander, a former University of Florida linkster from Gainesville, Fla., won the 2012 Killearn Country Club Classic; Looper, a former LSU star from Mandeville, La., won the 2012 Golden Hills Golf and Turf Classic; Narramore, a former Middle Tennessee State star from Kingston, Tenn., won the Savannah Lakes Village Classic; and Skinns, a former University of Tennessee stalwart from Lincoln, England, won the Cutter Creek Classic.
2011 NGA winners Erik Barnes, Ryan Spears, the 2011 NGA Rookie of the Year, Nick Rousey and Garrett Osborn are also scheduled to play in the event as well as 2011 Nationwide Tour members Travis Bertoni, Todd Bailey and Major Manning.
The event will also mark the second NGA Tour start for heralded rookie Peter Uihlein. The former Oklahoma State standout went 4-0 in the 2009 Walker Cup to help the U.S. team claim victory, won the 2010 U.S. Amateur title and played in the 2011 Masters.
Other notables include: Rick Cochran III, the nephew of PGA winner Russ Cochran; Andrew Loupe, a two-time All-American at LSU: Erick Justesen, who played in the 2012 PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open; Randall Hutchinson, the 2011-12 NGA Bridgestone Winter Series money title winner; T.J. Bordeaux, a 2011-12 BWS winner and four-time Big West All-Conference selection at the University of Pacific; Patrick Wilkes-Krier, the NGA’s 2011 Most Improved Player; and Manuel Villegas, the younger brother of PGA star Camilo Villegas and NGA Tour winner.
The first round of the 2012 Cherry Blossom Classic will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday. As always, admission is free to the public.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour is the No. 3 Men’s Professional Golf Tour in the United States after the PGA and Nationwide Tours and is the No. 1 recommended developmental tour by more PGA and Nationwide Tour Professionals.
The NGA has helped hundreds of professionals acquire their PGA, Euro, Nationwide, and Champions Tour cards. In fact, NGA alumni have won an incredible Fifteen (15) “Major” Championships.
NGA Alumni include: 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson; 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley; 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year and 2003 US Open Champion Jim Furyk; 2009 British Open Champion Stewart Cink; 2009 US Open Champion Lucas Glover; 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson; 2003 PGA Champion Shaun Micheel; 2003 British Open Champion Ben Curtis; two-time US Open Champion Lee Janzen; British Open and PGA Champion John Daly; British Open Champion Tom Lehman; PGA Champion David Toms; 2003 Tour Championship Winner Chad Campbell; 2010 NGA Player of the Year Michael Thompson; 2011 PGA winners Sean O'Hair, Scott Piercy, Scott Stallings, Mark Wilson, Gary Woodland and many, many more.
At this year’s PGA Tour Qualifying School, 52% of those earning full exempt status on the PGA Tour and 67% of those earning full exempt status on the Nationwide Tour were past NGA Professionals. Another 16 NGA Professionals advanced to the PGA Tour for 2012 by finishing inside the Top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list, including 2011 NGA members Ted Potter Jr., Russell Knox and Billy Hurley III.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour, established in 1988, predates the Nationwide Tour as the longest running developmental tour in golf. For more information on the NGA or the NGA Pro Golf Tour, please visit our website at
www.NGATOUR.com or contact our Tour Office at (800) 992-8748.