WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?

Woodstock, Vermont, native Keegan Bradley has earned international fame as a PGA Tour player, but he has not forgotten his roots. The 2011 PGA Champion returned to his old stomping grounds at the Woodstock Inn & Resort Golf Club on a lovely summer Monday before the Deutsche Bank Championship to host his fourth annual Charity Golf Classic.

Joined by his two best friends on Tour, Brendan Steele and Jon Curran, Bradley continued his commitment to local charities that he started in 2012, shortly after Hurricane Irene had devastated his hometown and much of Vermont.

Keegan Bradley's Charity Golf Classic has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Woodstock and Vermont charities. Every dollar stays in his home state.

Keegan Bradley’s Charity Golf Classic has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Woodstock and Vermont charities. Every dollar stays in his home state.

The one-day event has raised several hundred thousand 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.

Playing Before the Home Crowd

Keegan said, “I’m proud to be back in Vermont for our fourth year, raising money for childhood cancer and addiction research. These are issues that affect all of us, and I’m thankful for PGA Tour players and family, friends, researchers from the UVM Cancer Center and the public who’ve joined to raise awareness and funds for these causes. It means a lot to me that I can do a lot of good and help a lot of people.”

With dad Mark Bradley as the MC, Keegan, Brendan, and Jon treated the field of 21 foursomes and many local residents to a clinic before the noon shotgun. Jon demonstrated the importance of precision wedge play “because he doesn’t hit the ball as far as we do,” needled Keegan. Then Keegan and “Steeley” put on their power display, rocketing shots almost out of sight and then arguing, without agreeing, on who hit the longest drive. Each pro also answered questions from the spectators about their experiences on Tour. Once the shotgun scramble began, the three visited every foursome to meet each player, pose for pictures, and offer advice.

Joe Belcher stands in fron of the National Car Rental van. National is a major sponsor of the event, and its "Go Like a Pro" promotion uses Keegan and his father Mark as the ambassadors.

Joe Belcher stands in front of the National Car Rental van. National is a major sponsor of the event, and its “Go Like a Pro” promotion uses Keegan and his father Mark as the ambassadors.

Sponsors, Auctions, and Winners

Putnam Investments was again the presenting sponsor of the event. Leading additional underwriters included National Car Rental, Bearing, Srixon/Cleveland Golf, Zurich, Audemars Piguet and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Robert L. Reynolds, President and CEO of Putnam, said, “The good work done by the PCRF in conducting critically important research for children is making its mark in Vermont—and we are pleased to stand with Keegan in support of this great effort.”

Jeri Wilson, executive director of PCRF, said, “We are grateful to Keegan for his incredible generosity and recognize his support of our families fighting cancer.”

A 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: rare sports memorabilia and premium tickets from the Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox, Jack Nicklaus, and the Masters and vacations to Puerto Rico, Aspen, St. Thomas, and Costa Rica.

An 18-under par 52 from the scramble foursome of Josh Olsen, Dan Williamson, Chris

The 21 foursomes took the scramble format seriously and turned in some remarkable scores.

The 21 foursomes took the scramble format seriously and turned in some remarkable scores on the par-70 layout.

Nichols, and Justin Maxham, the Woodstock Union High School Alumni team, won the tournament by four shots.

The Dad’s Point of View

Keegan’s father Mark Bradley put the event into perspective. He made the trip from Wyoming, where he is the Director of Instruction at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club, because so much of his professional life was in the Woodstock area. He said, “This is really a special event for me, too. Woodstock was a great place to raise the kids, and this is where it all started for Keegan. That’s why after Irene hit, I called him and said, ‘Keegan, I think you need to go home and do something for the people there.’ He said, ‘Dad, it’s already in the works, and I’m going to organize an event that will raise money and really help out.’

Mark Bradley was the MC of the clinic, and he understands exactly why Keegan has put his charity event together for four years.

Mark Bradley was the MC of the clinic, and he understands exactly why Keegan has put his charity event together for four years.

“That’s how the Charity Golf Classic began, and it is a tribute to Keegan and the people of Woodstock and all of Vermont.”

Keegan Remembers and Thanks His Family and Friends

Keegan met with a large assemblage of media after the golf clinic. He discussed several topics. First of all, he was effusive in his praise of the Woodstock course and Brendan and Jon. “The people at this course treated me so well when I was a kid, and they didn’t have to, and I’ll never forget that. It’s been so much fun to come back here. I just love to play this course. I can’t thank this town and this state enough for what they have both meant to my career.

“This event has become like an annual reunion for me with my family and friends. I’ve got my girlfriend Jillian [Stacey from nearby White River Junction, Vermont] with me who is instrumental in running this tournament, my mother Kaye and father Mark, my sister Madison and her two children, two grandmothers, a bunch of aunts and uncles [Aunt Pat was at a Legends event and couldn’t attend], and my St. John’s University golf coach, Frank Darby. I also get to see many of my Woodstock friends I have known for years. All this support means the world to me.

Keegan responds to a question during the clinic as Jon Curran and Brendan Steele look on.

Keegan responds to a question during the clinic as Jon Curran and Brendan Steele look on. Keegan was delighted that his best friends on Tour could join him.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have my two best friends on Tour, Jonny and Steeley, with me here today. I played high school golf with Jon, where we were very tight, and then we were roommies on the Hooters Tour and the mini-tours. I’m sure we’re a unique story on the PGA Tour, two guys from the same high school at the same time. And I’ve been close with Steeley ever since we graduated from the Web.Com Tour together and have spent the last five years on the big Tour.

To the Deutsche Bank and Beyond

Keegan then talked about the upcoming Deutsche Bank Championship where he is 71 in the FedEx Cup rankings and Brendan is 55. “Unfortunately, we all missed the cut at The Barclay’s, but we arrived here on Saturday and played 36 holes yesterday. The three of us had a great time, and we were all reminded that, first and foremost, golf is supposed to be fun. Brendan and I should be ready for this week, and we’re both feeling good about our games. Jon, in his rookie season, did not make the Deutsche Bank, but he remained in the top 125 and has kept his card for next year.

Keegan and Brendan really put on a power show with the driver, each trying to outdistance the other.

Keegan and Brendan really put on a power show with the driver, each trying to outdistance the other.

“Only the top 70 move on to the BMW Championship so I know I’m in a difficult situation. I hope to have a good tournament, and that’s all it takes to get me to the next week because the FedEx standings can be so volatile. This has certainly not been my best season [only three top 10’s and $1.4 M in winnings], and I’ve been playing with some swing and putting considerations, but I feel more comfortable with both. I guess I’d call this a transitional year, but it’s getting me ready for next year, and I feel good about the future.”

Private Interview with Keegan

Keegan most graciously took time out from his hectic day to meet with me in the clubhouse for 10 minutes and answered these questions.

NEGM: Who would be in your Dream Foursome of today? Of any time period?

KB: Tom Brady, Howard Stern, and Rob Dyrdek [professional skateboarder and actor].

Ben Hogan, Howard Stern [again, seriously!], Gene Sarazen.

Tom Brady has been an idol of Keegan's, and Tom helped to make charity event even more successful. The live and silent auctions offered a cornucopia of sports-related memorabilia, tickets, and travel. Both of these jerseys were autographed, Tom on the 1 of his number and the other one by all of the Bruins.

Tom Brady has been an idol of Keegan’s, and Tom helped to make the charity event even more successful. The live and silent auctions offered a cornucopia of sports-related memorabilia, tickets, and travel. Both of these jerseys were autographed, Tom on the 1 of his number and the other one by all of the Bruins.

NEGM: Which celebrities have you really enjoyed playing with?

KB: I had a superfun time with Tom Brady in the Bahamas. It was awesome! He’s been my idol for years. We played 36 holes, and Tom beat me in the second round. Of course, I had to give him 12 shots, but he played so well. And MJ [Michael Jordan]. When we tee it up together, he is just the greatest person in the world to play golf with.

NEGM: Are you a fly-fishing enthusiast like your father?

KB: Yes, I am, big time! I spent three summers at Jackson Hole with my dad and played a lot of golf and did a lot of fishing. I was just there a few weeks ago to visit my dad and celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary, and we did some fly-fishing. We caught some nice cutthroat trout.

NEGM: How do you keep yourself in shape?

KB: My philosophy is that I believe it is necessary to be an athlete first and a golfer second. I have been using Joey D [Diovisalvi, a biomechanics coach for many PGA and LPGA players] as my personal trainer, and his program works really well. When I’m not on the Tour for a week, I train every morning. When I’m playing an event, I’ll train three times during the week.

Jon Curran explains the finer points of wedge play at the clinic.

Jon Curran explains the finer points of wedge play at the clinic.

NEGM: Who are your three favorite Red Sox players of all time?

KB: Dustin Pedroia, Pedro Martinez, and David Ortiz.

NEGM: Do you often think about the State Championship that you and Jon Curran and the Hopkinton, Massachusetts team won by 21 strokes in your senior year in high school? [Mark Keegan relocated to Hopkinton for Keegan’s senior year, and Keegan left the Woodstock school system after 11 years.]

KB: Oh, yeah! That was such a fun time for me in my life with golf, just having a blast. We knew we were going to win the State because we were just so good—Jon and me and a woman, Kim Donovan, who went to Duke—and no one could beat us.

NEGM: How much of an influence has Aunt Pat had on your career?

KB: She was my inspiration to be a tournament player. I grew up idolizing her and watching her play. No question, she’s the reason why I decided I wanted to be a PGA Tour player.

Keegan made time for this scribe and answered a number of questions about his life and career.

Keegan made time for this scribe and answered a number of questions about his life and career.

NEGM: If you were a betting man, and you cannot bet on yourself, who would you bet on win, place, and show for the FedEx Cup final leaders?

KB: I think, as of right now, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth are playing so well that they’re going to be up there. And then, obviously, Rory McIlroy, who didn’t play at the Barclay’s but will play the next three weeks, I assume, should be in the top three.

NEGM: Your caddie Steven “Pepsi” Hale said you’ve made a swing adjustment. What’s that all about?

KB: Yeah, I’ve abandoned a swing thought that I’d been working on for a while, and I’ve gone back to the way I used to swing when I first came out on Tour, a motion that’s a little more natural to me. I’ve just started to do that recently, and I’m hoping to see some good results soon.

At the reception after the scramble, Keegan thanks his girlfriend Jillian Stacey for taking such an active part in the running of the 2015 Charity Golf Classic.

At the reception after the scramble, Keegan thanks his girlfriend Jillian Stacey for taking such an active part in the running of the 2015 Charity Golf Classic.

NEGM: Do you set goals for yourself?

KB: Yes, I do. First and foremost, I want to win tournaments. I want to get myself in contention. If I get myself in contention and don’t win, I can live with that. What’s most important to me is being in contention and giving myself a chance. If I give myself a chance enough times, I’m going to win a good amount of them.

For me, winning more majors is my most significant goal for the rest of my career. And if I could choose my next major to go with the PGA, I would love to win the Masters. The history that you are a part of there is a lifetime experience. You go back there every year and are a part of a club. I think that’s just the coolest thing.

(All photography by Vicky MacKay)

WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?