Kevin Kisner reacts to his putt on the 18th green during the second round of the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports / REUTERS pic

CHARLOTTE: Kevin Kisner is a small-town American guy who loves hunting, fishing and having a few beers with his buddies. And this week, he’s bagging enough birdies to become a major golf champion.

At the PGA Championship in Charlotte – just a two-hour drive from his hometown over the border in South Carolina – the 25th-ranked golfer in the world has surged to the lead at the halfway point.

Kisner fired his second consecutive four-under par 67 on Friday to grab the lead at Quail Hollow in the year’s last major tournament.

In only his 11th major start and without a major top-10 result, Kisner has made the most of a hometown edge.

“I’ve spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas in Charlotte from childhood to marriage. Been here a ton,” Kisner said. “I’ve got a lot of ties to Quail Hollow. My brother-in-law’s father is a founding member here. He’s still a member here.

“We spent a lot of time in Charlotte. My 93-year-old grandmother still lives here by herself. We’re here all the time.”

Kisner grew up in Aiken, South Carolina – not far from Augusta National, home of the Masters. When it came time to settle down, Kisner stayed home.

“When I was playing mini-tours and I was broke, that’s the only place I could afford to buy a house and I went back there,” Kisner said.

“I just love it. I have a core group of friends that we hang out with, that don’t pester me about golf, and we hang out and have a couple beers on the back porch. That’s what I love about it.”

The rural setting isn’t far from the forests, lakes, creeks, rivers and streams that provide plenty of good times when Kisner needs to put down the clubs.

“I love to just go home and hang out with my buddies in the country, go out where there’s no cell phone service and spend the afternoon,” Kisner said.

“Love to fish, love to shoot guns, love to hunt, just get away from it. That’s my favorite part,” he added.

“That’s why I hang out with them. They are a bunch of good dudes and I’m sure they will be up there having a good time this weekend.”

Kisner – who won in May at Colonial after taking his first US PGA Tour title last year at Sea Island, Georgia – says he’s ready to take a run this weekend.

“I feel like I have the game to compete in majors,” he said. “This is probably the easiest one I’ve had to prep for because I know the golf course so well and I’ve been up here a lot. I feel real comfortable here.

“I’m sure there will be nerves in there but that’s what we play for and that’s what we practice for.” — AFP

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