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Greenbrier Classic: Kisner has come a long way

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Learning to manage long weeks is a major part of the maturation process on the PGA Tour.

What Kevin Kisner went through leading up to last year's Greenbrier Classic isn't on anybody's schedule.

"That was the worst experience I had all year, as far as traveling," said the former University of Georgia golfer, who will tee off in his second Greenbrier Classic on Thursday.

Kisner participated in the Andres Gonzales Charity Golf Tournament the week before the 2011 Classic. On Monday, when he should've been playing a practice round in White Sulphur Springs, he was wrapping up his charitable work 2,700 miles away in the great northwest.

When he was supposed to be getting a good night's sleep preparing for Tuesday in southern West Virginia, he was catching a red-eye flight to Chicago.

During what was expected to be final preparations for his visit to the Mountain State, Kisner was stranded in the Windy City.

On what was supposed to be his Pro-Am day, he was scrambling to gain some knowledge about the course he has never played.

"I started off behind the eight ball," Kisner said. "We got to the Greenbrier on Wednesday and only played nine holes in the practice round.

"We travel 25 to 30 weeks a year, but that was the worst I had. I felt like a zombie when I teed off on Thursday. I never saw the course."

Kisner, Gonzales and fellow professionals Chris Baryla, Spencer Levin, Michael Putnam, Jim Renner and Nate Smith participated in the charity event and the Greenbrier Classic. Kisner shot a two-round score of 9-over 149, missing the cut by a healthy eight strokes.

Putnam shot a 73 on the first day and withdrew after the 11th hole of the second round. Only Baryla and Levin made the cut at the Old White TPC. Baryla was 3-under in the final round and Levin shot a 77 after going 4-under entering the final 18 holes.

Kisner had a 62-foot birdie putt on No. 9 in the opening round in 2011, but walked off the green shaking his head after a double-bogey on No. 6 and bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8.

When considering his current level of play, there's no reason to expect Kisner to match his first round 5-over 75 from last year.

Kisner is coming off 10 of the best rounds of golf he has played. He was t13 in the FedEx St. Jude Classic, which earned him his biggest payday of the year ($98,933.33) and followed that with a first-round 66 in the Travelers Championship. A pair of double bogeys on day two and a 6-over 76 left him home for the weekend.

That didn't leave him disheartened.

"I've been playing really well for probably the last month," Kisner said. "The second round of the Travelers was out of the blue. I didn't hit it poorly; I just got off to a bad start. It was the only round in the last month where I felt like I wasn't going forward."

He has come a long way since winning a national championship at the University of Georgia on a team with three future PGA Tour players and a future Canadian Tour professional.

Former teammates Chris Kirk and Brendon Todd also are PGA Tour players who played in last week's AT&T National at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

The fourth player of college's dream team was Richard Scott. He won the Canadian Amateur Championship in 2003, 2005 and 2006 and is playing on the Canadian Professional Tour.

Todd and Kirk also are playing in the Greenbrier Classic.

It's considerably different for Kisner, Todd and Kirk when they have to rely on themselves, and not each other, to win.

A little spoiled in college, perhaps?

"Golf's probably the only sport in America where college doesn't prepare you for the pros," Kisner said. "In college, you count four scores and if you don't play well, there is somebody there to pick you up. As a professional, if you don't play well, you don't put food on the table."

He's eating well right now and when things go well on the golf course, they tend to snowball.

"If you keep rolling putts, you're going to play well," he said. "Anytime you're playing well, a good bounce happens instead of a bad bounce, you hole a few more putts and it becomes a mentality."

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.


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