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Mitch Vingle: Bohn proves lightning can strike — in an awesome way

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — WVU football fans might not be too keen on Jason Bohn.

He is an Alabama grad, after all. And, yes, his Crimson Tide squares off with the Mountaineers to kick off the college football season.

But if you can get past that, it’s tough not to love the guy. Or at least his story.

You know how last season’s final round of the Greenbrier Classic was delayed because of rains and lightning strikes? And you know how Greenbrier owner Jim Justice has offered cash to both golfers and fans if a hole-in-one is converted on No. 18?

Squish all of the above circumstances together and you have Bohn’s story.

See, he was at the University of Alabama golf course in 1992. A college player, he was involved in a shootout. Then lightning struck, figuratively.

He hit a hole-in-one. And won $1 million.

Cool, huh? But there was a catch. In order to collect, Bohn had to forfeit his amateur status.

He chose to do so. And it turned his life around.

“I turned professional right at that point because I had to, but I stayed in school,” Bohn said. “Once I got my degree it gave me the opportunity to chase my dream.”

Now 41, he’s still chasing that dream. On Thursday, Bohn shot a 5-under-par 65 at the Old White TPC course to sit a stroke behind leader and defending champ Jonas Blixt.

“I just made a bunch of putts, some 20-, 25-footers — a few of them, actually,” Bohn said. “And I kind of kept the ball out of trouble, you know? It was soft out there this morning and there was no breeze, so it was very get-able.”

Bohn had six birdies and one bogey to put him in contention.

But back to his story.

After hitting that money hole-in-one, Bohn was paid $50,000 annually.

“They stopped in 2012,” Bohn said. “So it was a very disappointing year when those stopped.”

The cash, though, provided him the aforementioned opportunity.

“I would have never been able to play on the PGA Tour if that wouldn’t have happened,” Bohn said. “No doubt.”

To say it turned out well would be an understatement. Yes, heading into the Classic, Bohn was ranked but No. 154 in the World Golf Rankings. Yes, he was but 53rd in the FedEx Cup rankings.

But he’s won $11,882,088 on the Tour. Add another $259,827 won on the Web.com Tour in the early days. Not bad, eh?

“You never know,” Bohn said. “One swing can change your life.”

Finishing a round in 65 swings can certainly enhance it. In his previous two trips here he’s finished 2 over twice and failed to make the cut.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever broken par here, but I love coming here,” Bohn said. “My family comes. It’s a beautiful place. I think sometimes we get a little too wrapped up in the stuff outside of golf. It’s pretty easy to do that.”

That’s been a theme this week.

“It’s great,” Bohn said. “We see a lot of families, a lot of our friends here with their kids. To go lounge by the pool isn’t so bad. You can use it to your advantage or disadvantage.”

Bohn hasn’t changed his approach.

“No, it’s a work week, but it’s also a great family week,” Bohn said. “You want to make sure you can enjoy it with your family and not stress too much about the job at hand. I’m thrilled to get off to a good start.”

Bohn said he and his family have experienced much at the resort, including the falconry, which he called “an unbelievable experience.”

A question though: Are the opportunities distracting? We sometimes wonder when players like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson enter and fail to make the cut.

“It’s all how you look at it,” Bohn said. “You can make yourself distracted, for sure. Or you can really enjoy your time away from the golf course. There are lots of times when you go away from the course and there’s nothing to do.”

The positive approach is to use the activities to distract after a bad round.

“When you just go back and sit in the hotel room you can dig yourself a hole,” Bohn said.

On Thursday, though, Bohn had no worries. Apparently, he hasn’t since acing that shot back in ’92.

And he’d like for his luck to rub off on the folks here.

“Hopefully someone can make a hole-in-one here on No. 18,” Bohn said. “Get a little cash for some of these people. It would be great.”

Indeed, a swing can change a life.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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