For many who head to Hawaii this time of year, it’s all about getting away.
They want to escape their lives if just for a little bit to enjoy a paradise vacation. Kris Blanks is heading to Hawaii this week, but it’s a business trip for him. Still, it’s one he certainly doesn’t mind making.
For the past 13 years, Blanks has worked his way onto professional golf tours while also searching for sponsors. He has traveled all over the country playing the game, all the while pointing to the moment he will finally get to enjoy Thursday.
That’s when Blanks will make his PGA Tour debut in the tour’s first full-field event of the year: the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
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“I guess it’s one of the understatements of the year to say I’m excited,” said Blanks, who was born in Warner Robins. “The process has been tough to get here, but it’s rewarding that I’ve been able to work hard to get here and will be able to enjoy it.”
And it has been work.
Blanks, who said his father worked at the golf course at Robins Air Force Base and moved away from Warner Robins when he was about six months old, turned pro in 1995. He spent several years looking for sponsors before ending up working at the Landings Club in Savannah.
In 2003, the club helped pay his way to the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School, but he didn’t get through that process and spent the next few years playing on the Hooters and Nationwide tours before a breakthrough season in 2008.
Playing on the Nationwide Tour last year, he earned a win at the Bank of America Open and finished 13th on that tour’s money list, which earned him an exempt spot on the PGA Tour this year. That schedule includes the Tour debut for the 36-year-old rookie this week.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Blanks said. “I’m confident, but I’m realistic. I wouldn’t put my wife and kids through me being gone all the time if it wasn’t something I could do.”
Blanks does have a strong support system at home. His wife, Tami, should understand what he’s going through with his golf game because she has been there before.
Tami Blanks was the No. 1 player on the Ohio State team from 1990-93, and she played in the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open. The two have been married for 13 years and have two young children.
Tami Blanks said she and the couple’s two young sons will join Kris Blanks when he gets to Arizona and plan to travel with him throughout the season.
“We’re just all extremely proud of him and excited for him,” Tami Blanks said. “He has worked so hard and had the ups and downs that go with golf. There’s definitely been a lot of grinding to get to this point, and he has overcome all of that.
“But we understand that. I understand the long hours that it takes to be good in this game, and I understand all the travel.”
Kris Blanks said turning to Hugh Royer III as his coach has helped him get to this point. The two have been working together for four years and have focused on Blanks’ swing and being able to work the ball both ways, along with his fitness and putting stroke.
“Once he gets used to the lifestyle and just being out on the PGA Tour and gets a taste of it, he’s going to thrive,” Royer said. “The first half of the year, he just needs to get in there and focus on playing well and worry about (getting into the top 125 on the money list). Then we’ll start worrying about winning tournaments.”
Blanks won three times on the Hooters Tour in addition to his win last year on the Nationwide Tour so he has those experiences of winning to fall back on. He plans to play in five of the first seven events of this season before focusing on the rest of the year.
“I have no expectations at all,” Blanks said. “I’m just soaking up the enormity of being on the PGA Tour. Everyone’s been telling me to go to Hawaii and enjoy the week and get some events under my belt, and by the time we hit Florida, be ready to play well. That’s what I’m looking for. It’s going to be an exciting year.”