Kevin Aylwin, the first Piga Tour event in 12 years

Kevin Aylwin, the first Piga Tour event in 12 years

Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. at New Smyrna Beach Golf Club from Innisbrook Resort for a three-hour municipal course, with the Valspar Championship starting less than 24 hours later. Mini-tour legend Kevin Aylwin, who has played New Smyrna countless times since childhood, is sneaking around the back nine as he often does.

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But this time it’s different. Because Aylwin will play the 10th hole the next day in his first PGA Tour event 12 years after turning pro. But why is Wednesday three hours away from the resort of Innisbrook? Kevin, 35, has a natural swing.

He doesn’t hit it long (by professional golf standards), but he hits most of the fairways and has a very good short game.If there was a mini-tour event or some hundred-dollar bet in Florida over the last 12 years, Aylwin would probably be there, winning most of the time.

Kevin Aylwin, History

He has more than 30 wins in 36-hole events, not counting 18-hole events. With those, he says his win total will probably approach triple digits. In the year When Hurricane Ian hits Florida in 2022, Aylwin and his wife Chelsea roll inland, hoping they’ll be safe enough to avoid flooding.

You are wrong. When they woke up in the morning, there was water in the yard. In a few hours, it was ankle-deep. Kevin and Chelsea grabbed backpacks and paddleboards, pushed out the living room window, and left.

They do not return to their homes for six months. That’s when Chelsea, a second-grade teacher, and Kevin decided he needed to find a full-time job. For years, Kevin made his living in the mini-tour grinder.

He only played Florida tournaments to keep costs down and won enough times to stay in the black (impossible in a mini-tour state). However, such a lifestyle is not sustainable, and the couple had months of red color due to some high results.

Shortly after the storm passed, Kevin began working full-time as an assistant professional at Cypress Hill Golf Course in Port Orange. He works 40 hours most weeks, but still finds time to play some mini-tour events.

Aylwin still dreams of a PGA Tour career, and the club works as much as possible around his playing schedule. Last week, after registering late and waiting to qualify for the Valspar Championship, the PGA division that hosts qualifying called Ailwin to let him know he had a good time during Thursday’s prelims.

He shot a rough 69 to advance to Monday’s qualifier. Monday’s qualifier, the most important, will finally admit 4 players to the actual tournament. At Southern Hills, Aylwin closed the front nine 1 under par, but knew he had to do something special on the back.

And he did. Five consecutive birdies to close out the back nine in 30 strokes allowed him to enter the Valspar Championship. That night, Kevin returns home to celebrate with his family. Tuesday is the only practice day on the course for the Monday qualifiers because in most tournaments the course is closed on Wednesday for players not playing in the pro-am.

Played the course twice, and several times on the simulator. He played nine holes with Adam Schenck, who has played with him a few times in Florida on Tuesday, finishing the afternoon. At that time a decision needs to be made.

«I’ve never been a circuit rat,» says Aylwin. «Unless I’m working on something specific, I lose focus by hitting five shots.» Hence the decision to make the three-hour drive back home. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of newness at a PGA Tour event.

Equipment manufacturers’ trucks are extremely inviting, offering free clubs and apparel. On the green, companies offer the opportunity to try their products for free. With the right number of players hitting countless balls, there is pressure on the practice range.

A former player of the current Korn Ferry Tour once told me that in his first year with the card, he watched some of his teammates hit balls for hours and thought he should do it…out of his comfort zone. It’s easy to get carried away in a player’s first PGA Tour tournament.

So Aylwin jumped in his car (declined the courtesy car…) and headed home, away from the chaos of the race. He said I was playing. «That’s how I prepare for any event, so I thought I might as well go home and play.» And on Wednesday morning, one day before the biggest event of his life, Kevin Ailwin returned to the course he’s played tens of thousands of times.

The club’s pro greeted him with smiles and hugs, and a few members he often played with met him on the tee. They invited him to join them, but Kevin politely declined. He played alone, hitting extra shots on each hole.

Three hundred miles away from the challenging course he’ll play the next day, «Monday Fit» Kevin Ailwin will practice the way he knows it, playing at the municipal course where he grew up.

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