Bruins’ Kohnle on roll after putt

Friday, April 13, 2007 | 1:53 a.m. CDT; updated 8:24 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Maybe the 14th hole was the turning point for Rock Bridge junior golfer Dan Kohnle.

Kohnle has struggled adjusting to Columbia area courses since moving from Springfield, Ill., earlier this year. In the Bruins’ victory over Jefferson City on Thursday, however, Kohnle looked to be gaining confidence in his new environment.

Kohnle’s ball was about 25 feet from the red-and-white checkered flag after he whacked his 4-iron shot nearly 190 yards off the 14th tee onto the soggy L.A. Nickell green.

“Fourteen was playing tough,” Rock Bridge coach Doug Daniels said. “It was into the wind and uphill. That was a pretty good shot to knock it on within 30 feet.”

But after slapping a well-struck tee shot, Kohnle had to putt, and that’s been a problem since he slightly altered his approach.

“Joe (Neal) showed me how to change the ball position and hand position when I putt,” Kohnle said.

He said that his teammate has helped him adjust to new courses and tinker with his putting stroke.

“I just told him he had his hands behind the ball,” Neal said. “I said to press his hands forward and tuck his right elbow in a little.”

Kohnle had the advice in mind when he stepped up to attempt a putt for birdie. He took three practice strokes, glanced at the hole once more and tapped the ball gently, sending it rolling downhill toward its target.

Kohnle bent his knees and shifted his balance while watching the ball roll closer to the hole and drop out of sight below the surface of the green.

“It went in the side of the hole. I had to lean with it a little and help it get there,” Kohnle said smiling. “I pretty much made about everything on the greens today.”

That’s good news for the Bruins since Kohnle hadn’t found his rhythm yet.

“Every time I finish at a course,” Kohnle said, “I leave thinking I have wasted about five shots just from lack of knowledge of the course. I leave knowing I can play better.”

Daniels said he is especially happy to see the improvement.

“When you’re not comfortable, you’re not confident. When you’re not confident, you don’t shoot the numbers you expect to shoot,” Daniels said.

Kohnle shot a 4-over 74, which tied him with Mark Kollias for the Bruins’ top performers. Jefferson City’s Will Nixon, however, shot a 70, edging Rock Bridge’s duo. Rock Bridge shot a 300. That was good enough to beat Jefferson City’s 304 and win the match.

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