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Do you know if it is equipped with an
(ACR) "Automatic compression release?"
It's a little weighted thing on the exhaust valve cam that holds the exhaust valve open just a bit until the motor starts. Then centrifugal force spins it so the exhaust valve closes all the way. If you google it, it will explain it better than I can. It's kind of a notorious Kohler problem on the single cylinder engines.
But it's under the top engine cover so ya gotta crack open the case to get to the cams. I'll try to attach a picture and help you any way I can if it has the ACR.
Food Ingredient Cuisine Wood Baked goods

Wood Door Auto part Hardwood Metal
 

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Thanks Cannon! Yep - I figured it out when I saw the word “hydraulic”. Learning something new every day! :)

It’s kind of a bummer because the valve lash issue sounded like it could be the source of my problems. I haven’t noticed the starting getting any easier after I replaced the gas with fresh. In fact, the motor doesn’t want to turn, even after replacing the starter. So far the only thing that works is manually turning the engine to just past compression. That seems to give the starter enough of a run up to get past the next compression. I’m starting to wonder if something is bent somewhere…
Also, if it does have the ACR and if it sticks. It can and usually does bend the exhaust pushrod. Steel tipped aluminum. YouTube has a number of videos on the subject.
 
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