Keegan Bradley may wear his New England roots on his Boston Red Sox-shirted sleeve, but he’s in a New York state of mind this week at Bethpage State Park.
“I love Bethpage. It’s my favorite course in the world and it feels great to be back here,” Bradley, a graduate of New York’s St. John’s University, told the media Wednesday prior to The Barclays, the first leg of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs that starts on Thursday. “A lot of really great memories of this course.”
Bradley’s fondest remembrances of the 7,468-yard Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y., revolve around the hush-hush rounds he and his college golf team got to play every week. In what were supposed to be private sessions that Bradley — since his 2011 PGA Championship win — has several times made public, course superintendent Craig Currier let the guys tee off on Mondays when the course was closed.
“We’d start on the third hole and play, because there was nobody out here,” Bradley recalled, “us all in one group, seven, eight guys, and just having such fun little matches and basically having Bethpage Black to ourselves. I don’t know if there’s anybody in the world that’s ever experienced that. Normally you’re out here, it’s a six‑hour round, it’s brutal.”
As Bradley recounted the story (which his coach Frank Darby would prefer his prize player had kept to himself, lest he lose his furtive playing privileges), he and his teammates would pile into Darby’s van for the 25 or so mile journey from Queens.
“We had bags everywhere and it just was so fun,” Bradley said. “Just the stereotypical hanging out with the guys and just great memories, ones that I wish I could go back and relive, to be honest with you.”
Bradley, a three-time tour winner, last played the course in the New York State Open in 2008, his first year as a pro, and was “devastated” to miss qualifying for the 2009 U.S. Open by one shot.
Bradley was hoping for redemption in his next round, which will kick off Thursday at 8:05 a.m. ET with Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker on the 10th tee.
“I’m so happy to be able to come back and play here and have a chance to play in front of these fans,” said Bradley, who will kick off his 2012 FedEx Cup playoff season ranked No. 8 on the points roster. “It’s just fun to come back and be an accomplished tour player…to see how far I’ve come since then.”
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer