PROSPECT — Rick Cochran III said it was a "fun" and "relaxed" week at Hunting Creek Country Club "and everything clicked" as he repeated as Kentucky Open golf champion Thursday afternoon.
Cochran, with his wife Christa riding with him in his golf cart, became the first back-to-back winner since J.B. Holmes took home the trophy in 2003 and 2004.
"It's just an honor to win this once, but especially twice," Cochran said. "It's a great tournament for me, coming home to Kentucky."
Cochran, a Paducah native and former Middle Tennessee State golfer, has been playing on the Latinoamerica Tour and Canadian Tour. He took a few weeks off to get some rest, and to defend his title in the 95th Kentucky Open.
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He defended it impressively.
Cochran, the nephew of Champions Tour player Russ Cochran, shot 70-67-67 for a 12-under total of 204. That was four shots better than Jared Wolfe's 69-71-68—208, and six ahead of Robert Damron's 75-70-65—210.
Cochran started the last round with a two-shot lead over University of Kentucky redshirt freshman Cooper Musselman, and three up on Wolfe and Kyle Wilshire.
Wolfe turned out to be Cochran's toughest challenger.
Wolfe, a former Murray State golfer, went birdie-par-eagle-birdie starting at the ninth hole to get to 10-under par and briefly tie Cochran.
Minutes later, however, Cochran birdied the par-3 12th to go 11-under, and he had sole ownership of the top spot the rest of the day. He birdied the 15th to get to 12-under, and when Wolfe took a double-bogey at the 16th, the ball game was over.
"Rick's a good enough player, I knew he wasn't going to falter today and shoot something high," Wolfe said. "I knew I had to shoot 8- or 9-under to catch him.
"I had it going for a while, but not getting a birdie at the (par-5) 15th with a six-iron in my hand was probably the biggest downfall on the back side for me."
Cochran knew Wolfe was making a run at him, "so I just kept my head down, tried to keep making birdies, and I was fortunate to do that."
Cochran is poker-faced on the course, never revealing his emotions. His reaction after a birdie is the same as after a bogey.
"I'll be 28 in a couple of weeks, so I've learned how to stay calm a little better," he said with a smile.
Cochran also credited his wife, a school teacher in Paducah, for keeping him loose by engaging him in what he called "silly" conversation.
"That helped me stay in the game," he said.
Cochran then revealed another bit of news: Christa is pregnant, and their first child is due in late January.
"That's exciting for us," he said. "I've always wanted to be a father."
The Kentucky Open's $10,000 first-place check will come in handy for the dad-to-be, who's also pocketed almost $50,000 on the Latinoamerica Tour this year.