Holmes got head start in golf

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KAPALUA, Hawaii - The image of Tiger Woods as a golf prodigy is the putt he made on the Mike Douglas Show at age 2.

J.B. Holmes' background in golf is best illustrated by his letterman's jacket from Taylor County High School in Kentucky.

"It was a red jacket, and it would have been gray if I had all my patches," Holmes said after moving into weekend contention at the Mercedes-Benz Championship. "Ten-year letterman. That's got to be some kind of record."

Yep - he spent 10 years on his high school golf team.

Holmes' first love was baseball, but that changed when he played his first junior tournament and won the first four times he teed it up. That's when his father approached the high school golf coach and asked if his son could try out.

Holmes was in the third grade.

"They only had about four or five players on the team," Holmes said. "They said, 'Well, he has to shoot around 50 on nine holes.' So I went out there and played with the coach a little bit. I played on the team and got better."

He was one of the top two players on the team in the fifth grade. By the eighth grade, he was hitting the ball 300 yards. He won the state title as a sophomore. And the letters kept piling up.

"The first year was a little rough," he said. "I was a third-grader playing with high schoolers, so I learned not to get intimidated."

The 24-year-old Holmes earned his ticket to Maui by winning the FBR Open in Phoenix last year with an awesome display of power, such as his 4-iron from 263 yards over the water on the par-5 15th that led to an eagle.

He won so early, and did so little the rest of the year, that he became a forgotten rookie.

Holmes, however, was a rookie in the purest sense.

He spent four years at Kentucky, made the Walker Cup team that summer, was a medalist at Q-school in the fall to earn his card and was a winner before he could even get his feet wet on the PGA Tour.

Then came the higher expectations, and the lack of experience. He played too many times in a row, got lonely being on his own for so long and didn't know the courses he was playing.

"I'm used to it now," he said. "I understand what's going on, and I've got a better feel."

His next lesson is learning to play a full season on the PGA Tour without wearing himself out.


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