Winning PGA Championship Changed Everything For Bradley

By Lance Hanlin,

Since winning the PGA Championship last year, Keegan Bradley has lived out the dream of every young Boston sports fan.

He threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox/Yankees game. He dropped the ceremonial first puck at a Bruins/Panthers game. He flipped the coin before a preseason matchup between the Patriots and Giants.

“I’ve just been able to do a lot of stuff that, seriously, you dream about as a kid,” Bradley said.

Shortly after winning the PGA Championship, the 26-year-old Vermont native tweeted a picture of the Wanamaker Trophy wearing a Red Sox hat along with the message, “Go Sox Baby.” For the next four days, he took the famous trophy every place he went.

“I wanted to do kind of what they did to the Stanley Cup and just take it around,” Bradley said. “People would come over and I would say, ‘Grab it and hold it.’ It was cool to look at their faces when they were holding the trophy. They looked like they were staring at a ghost or something.”

When Bradley arrived at Kiawah Island Resort for Media Day back in March, the first thing he did was race over to the trophy to make sure his name was still on it.

It was, along with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Payne Stewart, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

“Seeing those names and knowing those guys have held this trophy … it kind of lets you know what you’ve done,” Bradley said. “That you’re part of history.”

History, indeed.

Bradley was just the third golfer to win his major debut in more than 100 years, picking up a check for $1.445 million along with a five-year exemption to the Masters, the U.S. Open and a lifetime invitation to the PGA Championship.
Just a few years ago, he had $1,200 in his bank account, struggling to make ends meet on the NGA Hooters Tour.

Quitting was not an option.

He gave up a promising career as a ski racer at the age of 12 to pursue golf, following in the footsteps of his father, now a head golf professional in Wyoming, and his aunt, former LPGA player and World Golf Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley.

His family moved to Hopkinton, Mass., for his senior year, where he won the individual high school state golf championship in 2004. His success carried over to his collegiate career at St. John’s University, where he won nine tournaments before graduating in 2008.

His early professional career on the Hooters and Nationwide tours had plenty of peaks and valleys. After finally earning his PGA Tour card in 2011, Bradley quickly made up for lost time.

He made the cut in his first event, the 2011 Sony Open, then posted top 10 finishes at the Bob Hope Classic and Valero Texas Open. His first PGA Tour victory came at the 2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship. Three months later, he stunned the golf world by winning “Glory’s Last Shot,” the PGA Championship. Bradley wasn’t taken aback with the surprise reaction from fans and media.

“Ever since I was 10 years old, I’ve kind of flown under the radar,” Bradley said. “I had what I thought was a pretty good college career and I never really got noticed. Same thing in junior golf and kind of the same out here. I’ve always been playing with a chip on my shoulder.”

Bradley was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year for 2011 and has avoided a sophomore slump this year, posting 10 top 25 finishes in 19 events played.

Next up is the 94th PGA Championship, set for Aug. 9-12 on the famed Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. As the event’s defending champion, Bradley has been the focus of pre-tournament publicity.

He has been asked to do all sorts of things, from unusual photo shoots to hitting trick shots off the USS Yorktown. In that event, Bradley had five chances to hit a floating golf ball off the historic aircraft carrier to a target in Charleston Harbour. If he hit the target, the dozens of onlookers would win free day passes for PGA Championship practice rounds.

After hitting the target on his second attempt, the event’s MC yelled over the microphone, “Are you kidding me!?!”
Another surprise from Bradley. Just another one of those things you dream about doing when you’re a kid.


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