“It’s always really fun to come back here to Woodstock and the area where I grew up, and it’s always very important for me to give something back to this community.”
The Return of the New England Native
Keegan Bradley, 2011 PGA Champion, New England native, and rabid Boston sports fan, addressed the 21 foursomes and many guests and friends who had gathered around the practice green for his 5th annual Charity Golf Classic on Monday,
August 29. Included in the group were Keegan’s mother and sister, longtime head pro Jim Gunnare, and Keegan’s fiancé Jillian Stacey from nearby White River Junction.
Keegan continued, “Without this golf course and the many people that you see here today who took care of me when I was a child, I probably would not have made it into the pros. I am so appreciative. I would take the bus from school and get dropped off here at the club, and I would get in as many holes as possible before dark. It’s great to return home, and it’s a great time of year to be in Vermont.”
On a beautiful late summer day, Keegan, who moved to Hopkinton, MA, for his senior year in high school, reveled in his return to the Woodstock Inn & Resort Golf Club to put on his clinic and charity event with his two best friends on Tour, Brendan Steele and Jon Curran. Keegan has unstintingly continued his commitment to local charities that he started in 2012, shortly after Hurricane Irene had devastated his hometown and much of Vermont.
What the Golf Classic Endows
“I am overwhelmed by the support that this event has created,” said Keegan. “Raising money for childhood cancer and
addiction research is so important. That we are now in our fifth successful year here shows what the people of Vermont are all about. Also, the fact that every single dollar raised stays in Vermont for these programs is of paramount significance to me.”
The one-day event has raised more than $500,000 dollars to date, and this year the more than $100,000 will benefit the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF) in its support of the University of Vermont Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital to fund life-saving research for children battling cancer. Also, in recognition of Governor Peter Shumlin’s commitment to fight opiate addiction in Vermont, a portion of the proceeds will benefit that research and associated treatment programs at UVM.
The Clinic and the Advice
Keegan, Brendan, and Jon treated the spectators to a clinic and question-and-answer session before the noon shotgun scramble. Calling Jon Curran, his former high school teammate from Hopkinton, “Jonny The Wedge,” Keegan pointed out different targets
down the first fairway and had “The Wedge” knock his shots unerringly on line. The three hit a number of irons as they discussed the importance of disciplined practice and then unsheathed the drivers.
Keegan responded to a question, “Yes, I think the driver is the most important club in my bag. I spend a lot of time making sure I can hit it long and straight. Look at what Jason Day and Dustin Johnson have done with this club. They overpower courses and produce huge scoring advantages with their tee shots.”
Brendan added, “Keegan is one of the best drivers on Tour. For six years he has averaged more than 300 yards and has hit more than 60% of his fairways. Truly impressive numbers. However, when Keegan, Jon, and I practice—and we
practice a lot—we are always target oriented. We watch our ball flight, and we make sure that we are hitting the ball as solidly as we can. We hit shots to a specific area or zone or green. We never hit balls just to hit balls.”
Jon agreed, “We love to practice and try to get to the event on Tuesday so we can play the course and hone our swings on the range. Sometimes we play 36 holes. We put the work in every week because the Tour is so incredibly competitive.”
Sponsors and Auctions
Putnam Investments was again the presenting sponsor of the event. Leading additional underwriters included National Car Rental, and Srixon/Cleveland Golf. Keegan and Jon are on the Srixon staff, and Brendan is with Wilson Staff.
A cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception followed play inside the clubhouse. Players and guests had the chance to bid on a number of exclusive items during the live and silent auctions. The sheer number of items and the famous names of the
donors, most from New England professional sports teams, confirmed the high regard in which Keegan is held.
Celebrity autographs abounded, to name a few: jerseys from Tom Brady and Gronk, Keegan’s tour bag, Vince Wilfork picture, Masters and US Open flags and pictures from Phil Mickelson; Masters flag from Jordan Spieth, memorabilia from Jack and Arnie, Big Papi picture with four tickets to a 2017 Fenway game, Larry Legend with the Chief and Kevin McHale in an on-the-court picture, Gary Player and Brad Faxon score cards. Also at the presentation were other rare sports memorabilia and premium tickets from the Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics, and vacations to Puerto Rico, Aspen, St. Thomas, and Costa Rica.
No DBC for Keegan But Positive Future Plans
Keegan, Jon, and Brendan graciously celebrated the day at Woodstock, and everyone’s spirits were very high. However, there was the underlying frustration of Keegan’s failure to make the top 100 in the FedExCup, thus
missing the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston this week for the first time in his career. He started the Barclay’s at #106, but his +3 total only moved him up three spots. Both Brendan at #46 and Jon at #60 easily made this week’s event and are hoping to remain within the top 70 for the BMW event the following week.
Keegan evaluated his performance. “I was not happy with the way I played last year, and I have been very frustrated with the turn of events this year. It wasn’t much fun. I had some brutal moments out there for sure, but I also had some excellent individual rounds—like at The Open, for instance—but I could not put four good rounds together.
“I have a challenge before me now, and I accept this challenge. I haven’t been home since The Open, so I’ll spend
a little time relaxing. Then I will spend a lot more time fighting back and getting my game back to the level where it needs to be. I love to practice, and now I’ll be practicing with a new passion. You’ll see me playing on Tour in the Fall Season. And I hope you’ll see me playing well.”
(All photography by Vicky MacKay)