With three birdies and four bogeys through 12 holes, Keegan Bradley needed something to jump-start the defense of his first PGA Tour title. Stellar iron play down the stretch of Thursday’s first round of the Byron Nelson Championship did the trick.

“I had a nice explosion,” Bradley told reporters about stellar approach shots that resulted in back-to-back birdies on the par-4 14th and 15th holes, followed by an eagle-3 on the 16th and an opening-day 3-under 67.

Keegan Bradley hopes to defend his Byron Nelson Championship title (Photo: Keegan Bradley Facebook page via HP Byron Nelson Championship)

Bradley, who returned to the site of his inaugural tour win after two missed cuts and a T35 at The Players Championship, said he was pleased to get a solid round under his belt.

“The first probably 12 holes in my round have been reminiscent of the last three or four weeks, just right there, right on the edge, lip‑outs and playing well and not getting much out of it,” said the reigning PGA champ. “Feels really good. It’s a relief a little bit.”

Bradley’s fellow New Englander, Boston’s James Driscoll, who has two top-10 finishes in an otherwise lackluster 2012 season, also carded an opening-round 67.

Lexi returns. In other New England golf news, teen phenom Lexi Thompson will return to the region for the first time since leading her 2010 Curtis Cup team to victory at Massachusetts’ Essex County Club. The 17-year-old LPGA Tour star will headline a star-studded field at the June 18-June 19 CVS Caremark Charity Classic at Rhode Island Country Club.

Thompson will join retired legends Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, as well as world No. 1 Yani Tseng in the event that Rhode Islanders Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade host annually. In addition, LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster will make what appears to be her first competitive start since undergoing elbow surgery earlier this year. Click here for tickets or call 866-287-9441.

You go girls! Renowned golf instructor Suzy Whaley will host a Girls Golf Fair on May 19th at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. Whaley, a perennial top-ranked golf instructor, is as ardent an advocate of growing the game and getting more women to the course as anyone in the industry. Her goal for Saturday’s festivities — to which she hopes to attract 1,000 girls — is to instill in young women the passion for golf that she has had since she was their age.

“I want them to leave loving golf,” Whaley told us.

Cobra-Puma Golf will sponsor the two sessions (7:15 a.m.-1 p.m., or 11:15 a.m.-5 p.m.) for girls aged 5-17. Cost is $10 per junior. Click here to register.

Tee it up at Kittansett. Always wanted to play Kittansett and other fine private courses, but never had the opportunity. Well, now you can, if you join the Atlantic Players Club. The newly formed network provides members with access to The Kittansett Club (Marion, Mass.), Shelter Harbor Golf Club (Charlestown, R.I.), Wannamoisett CC (Rumford, R.I.), Boston Golf Club (Hingham, Mass.), and others, through fund-raising golf events.

“We created The Atlantic Players Club as a way to bring together people who love golf and respect the game’s values, traditions and history, while giving something back to important charitable organizations,” David Silva, the organization’s founding member and co-president, said in a statement.

The inaugural Atlantic Players Club Open, slated for June 25 at Ledgemont CC in Seekonk, Mass., will benefit the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. For information on the club’s special introductory package and participating in and/or sponsoring events, contact Patrick Meehan or call him at 401-500-3846.


Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer