Playing in the first major of his career, Keegan Bradley was relatively anonymous to the average golf fan. Despite the rookie’s maiden victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship in May, he was better known as LPGA legend and Hall of Famer Pat Bradley’s nephew.
After capturing the ’11 PGA Championship with his gutsy performance, he’s no longer just another no-name rookie. He’s now arrived as a star in American golf. Though it was only his first major start, Keegan has had the opportunity to draw from a plethora of wisdom. Aunt Pat’s storied career included six major victories and 31 LPGA Tour wins, not to mention his dad, Mark, a PGA Class A professional at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club.
I caught up with an ecstatic Aunt Pat on Sunday evening via phone to chat about her nephew…
Q: I can only imagine how thrilled you are right now. What was your first reaction to Keegan’s big win?
Pat Bradley: It was just an amazing display of championship golf. The courage that both those young men showed. Jason (Dufner) just played great golf. He showed tremendous courage. Keegan did the same. I’m happy that my nephew won the tournament, but it was two young men showing incredible golf and a lot courage.
Q: Keegan’s ability and resilience to bounce back after the triple on 15th were pretty incredible. Were you surprised at all?
PB: In whatever the situation has been, he has always been a resilient young man. He surrounds himself with a wonderful support system — his mother, father, swing instructor Jim McLean, Dr. Bob Rotella, who has been in my camp and is also in Keegan’s camp. He’s surrounded himself with wonderful pros, like Fred Couples, when he played with Freddie at the Shell Houston. Keegan absorbed a lot from him. He’s played several practice rounds with Phil Mickelson and learned from him.
Q: What was your reaction when Keegan triple-bogeyed the 15th?
PB: I can see it, I understand it — he’ll do whatever it takes to learn, to get the job done. I have to tell you, I watched very intently today on TV. I was by myself. I watched every shot. Keegan’s eyes told it all. He never lost a moment of wanting the championship. It was in his eyes on every shot — he was not going to be displaced by that triple-bogey. I saw it in his eyes. I knew it was going to be OK.
Keegan needed to dig deep to overcome those golf shots. It was in his eyes and he did it. What an incredible win, being his first major. What a wonderful win to honor his dad, Mark, who is a PGA pro in Jackson, Wyoming.
Q: I exchanged messages with Mark yesterday and he mentioned that Keegan always came to work with him wherever he worked to practice and play. He also helped around in the shop and was even on the payroll at Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis at one point.
PB: Mark provided Keegan with every opportunity he could. Mark’s been a PGA pro for a long time and Keegan wanted to be a golfer since he was a little boy. He would follow his father wherever he went in order to have an opportunity to hit the ball, to practice, to be around the golf course — whatever it took.
It was a lot of perseverance on Keegan’s side and his dad’s. Keegan has worked very hard. He has put the time in. He’s not afraid to practice. He’s not afraid to do the work. He’s learned from every lesson.
Q: I know you never had a doubt that this would happen someday, but after Keegan’s win at the Byron Nelson, he admitted to me that he was surprised his victory came so soon. So I’m sure he feels similar to capturing his first major?
PB: We’ve talked about different things in different situations. He was ready for this. He’s been dreaming of this. When you have a dream that strong, you won’t be denied. It was his week. I believe in destiny. It was a great way to honor his dad. It was a terrific first major.
Q: I’m with you on destiny. You’ve mentioned his resilience multiple times, but can you give me an example?
PB: He has said it himself — he was not recruited by any of the big schools. He was kind of snubbed. St Johns gave him a full scholarship and he took full advantage of it and he’s doing his school proud now.
PB: I said, ‘Keegan for every hour you spend on the driving range, spend two hours on the short game. For every hour you spend chipping, spend an hour-and-a-half on your putting.’ I told him this in high school. He knew how important it was to save par. He’s a master at par putting.
Q: Have you spoken to Keegan yet and if not, I’m assuming you texted him?
PB: I haven’t spoken to him, but I’ve won a few majors in my career, so I know exactly how busy he is. I know when he gets a moment, he’ll give me a call. I’m just so proud of him. I have texted him. I just said, ‘This is the first of many majors and I’m so proud of you. Way to go.’
Indeed. It was an unbelievable and well-deserved victory. Congratulations to Keegan and the Bradley family, and thanks to Pat for the time!
(Photo by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com)