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Kelly Kraft, with local ties, seeks to put bow on 2013

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Kelly Kraft, with local ties, seeks to put bow on 2013

Kelly Kraft, who has two uncles and an aunt who live in Omaha, will play the Cox Classic for the first time. He enters the tournament 43rd on the money list.

Kelly Kraft had seen parts of Champions Run prior to this week's Cox Classic.

It was whatever was visible from the back seat of the family car when the Krafts were visiting their Omaha relatives.

The 2011 U.S. Amateur champion and Walker Cup participant is the son of former Omahan Barbara Cimino and Tim Kraft, a contractor in Denton, Texas.

“We'd drive down Maple and I'd see the course, but I haven't played that much golf around Omaha,'' Kraft said.

He's staying this week with one of his mother's three siblings in town, Tony Cimino, who lives near the golf club. Diana Pintore is an aunt and Jim Cimino is another uncle.

Kraft said his mother had knee problems and didn't make the trip with his dad.

He'd like to get in a four-round week in his Cox Classic debut. The $800,000 tournament completes the regular season on the Tour.

Kraft is 43rd on the money list with $95,204. He's locked into the Tour playoffs that begin next week in Fort Wayne, Ind., but probably needs a top-three finish in Omaha to be among the 25 leading money winners, who become PGA Tour members next season.

He didn't turn pro immediately after college because he was pursuing a Walker Cup invitation, which he got by winning the U.S. Amateur with a finals victory over top-ranked Patrick Cantlay at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. Cantlay is No. 25 on the money list this year.

“Playing in the Walker Cup was special,'' Kraft said. “Anytime you get to play for your country, it's fun. It was like nothing I had done before and I made a lot of good friends on the team.”

With the U.S. Amateur crown comes an invitation the Masters, provided the golfer remains an amateur.

He stayed in the Crow's Nest in the Augusta National clubhouse with his fellow amateurs. Practice-round partners included Harrison Frazar, Matt Kuchar, David Toms and Rickie Fowler. When playing with Fowler, Kraft skipped a ball across the water on the 16th hole to about 10 feet from the flagstick.

Kraft then made the cut by sinking an 8-footer on the 18th on Friday, and finished 62nd.

His experiences, he said, were worth a six-month delay in starting his pro career. In Q school last fall, he made it onto the Tour by playing in the final of the qualifying tournament's three stages.

A second at the Mylan Classic in Pittsburgh this month — he was five shots behind winner Ben Martin and five shots ahead of third place — has been his best finish in 13 events. He also made the cut in both events he's played on the PGA Tour, at Pebble Beach and Houston.

“I didn't get into a lot of the early events, but when I got in I made some money and got into the reshuffle,'' Kraft said. “I've been playing well the last few weeks after feeling I wasn't getting a whole lot out of my game.

“I've been able to throw out a lot of rounds in the 60s lately and it's been paying off.”

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