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Keegan Bradley Returns to Woodstock for Annual Charity Golf Classic

  • Professional golfer Keegan Bradley answers questions about the game from spectators during the Keegan Bradley Charity Golf Classic on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, at Woodstock Country Club in Woodstock, Vt. Bradley and two other profesional golfers, Jamie Lovemark and Brendan Steele, put on a golf clinic and signed autographs as part of the event. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mark and Kaye Bradley present the first golf shoes of their son, pro golfer Keegan Bradley, as a gift for him and his wife, Jillian Bradley, who are expecting a child in November during the Keegan Bradley Charity Golf Classic on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, at Woodstock Country Club in Woodstock, Vt. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Spectators watch and record as three professional golfers put on a clinic during the Keegan Bradley Charity Golf Classic on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, at Woodstock Country Club in Woodstock, Vt. After the clinic and an autograph signing, there was a golf tournament benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Professional golfers Jamie Lovemark, left, Keegan Bradley, center, and Brendan Steele sign autographs for the Keegan Bradley Charity Golf Classic on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, at Woodstock Country Club in Woodstock, Vt. Before the autographs, the golfers put on a clinic for the attendees. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Sports Editor
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Woodstock — Keegan Bradley expected his parents would dig out the shoes eventually, so he wasn’t totally surprised that the moment arrived on Monday.

Mark and Kaye Bradley walked onto Woodstock Country Club’s putting green as their PGA Tour-golfer son warmed up for his annual charity tournament, bearing a small gift bag. Out of it Kaye pulled the tiniest pair of white shoes, upon which she’d affixed snap buttons as fake spikes some 31 years ago for her newborn son, essentially Keegan’s first golf cleats.

They’re far too small for their original owner now, but Bradley and his wife, Jillian, might give them to the son they’re expecting in November.

“Next year at this time, we’re going to have a little guy running around,” Bradley said prior to his sixth Keegan Bradley Charity Golf Classic on his former home course. “Things are going to change a lot.”

Much already has changed for the former Woodstock Union High School golfer, largely for the good.

Bradley heads to TPC Boston for this weekend’s second FedEx Cup playoff tournament having returned to his past competitive form. Largely because of the tour’s anchored putter ban, Bradley dropped far enough down the FedEx points standings that he didn’t even qualify for Boston last summer.

That’s been less of a problem in 2017. He’s nearly 60 spots higher in the rankings than where he finished 12 months ago, automatically set for this week’s playoff stop as well as the third round two weeks beyond. The top 30 in points following the latter tourney, the BMW Championship on Sept. 14-17 outside Chicago, advance to the Tour Championship, the ultimate goal of every PGA Tour competitor.

Bradley enters Boston ranked 47th in points.

“I had to put a lot of work in; I was not where I needed to be,” said Bradley, a golfer and skier at Woodstock High through his junior year in 2003. “I had to switch the putter. Things have come around now. I’m back to where I feel like I can contend and play well. I look forward to playing every week. I’ve played a ton this year just because I’m excited with the way I’m playing.”

Bradley’s strength continues to come off the tee. He holds down the spot of the PGA Tour’s top driver, a metric that combines a competitor’s ranking in distance (in Bradley’s case, 43rd) and accuracy (23rd).

During the warmup with PGA Tour buddies Brendan Steele and Jamie Lovemark, Bradley emphasized to a crowd of around 100 how success off the tee sets up success elsewhere on the course.

“He’s the No. 1 total driver on the PGA Tour two years in a row, and his first six years on tour, he averaged over 60 percent of his fairways and over 300 yards on the tee,” Steele remarked for the audience. “You’re literally seeing the best driver of the ball in the world.”

“That’s nice, dude,” Bradley deadpanned. “I need to keep you around more.”

Other changes won’t manifest themselves for another two years, most notably the move of the PGA Championship from an August date to one in May.

That, along with the return of the Players Championship to its original March schedule slot and a possible shortening of the FedEx Cup playoffs, won’t likely happen until 2019, Bradley said. The tour’s reported goal is to end its season by Labor Day to avoid being drowned out by professional and college football.

“I think it’s awesome; I think it’s a great change,” Lovemark said. “I think it’s great that we’re progressive enough to try to not necessarily challenge football but make our own way. August is a pretty slow month for sports; baseball is in the middle of its season, and there’s no football yet. It’s a great time for the FedEx Cup to really take charge and draw some ratings.”

Should Boston get bumped from the playoff slate — a possibility, according to an Associated Press report earlier this month — Bradley may have to switch when he returns to Woodstock for his annual charity effort. He admitted it’s a thought that hadn’t crossed his mind yet.

“We’re still yet to see how the schedule shakes out,” Bradley said. “It’s a huge bummer if we lose Boston. It’s one of my favorite events and, I think, a lot of the guys on the tour. I don’t know how it would affect (his tourney). It’s still two years down the road, so hopefully that doesn’t happen. I’d have to figure it out when it came.”

Come next season, Bradley will also lose one of his favorite tour stops.

Organizers of the Byron Nelson Championship near Dallas announced last fall that the event would move in 2018 to the new Trinity Forest Golf Club south of downtown after more than 30 years at the TPC Four Seasons Resort and Club in suburban Irving. Bradley won his first of his three PGA Tour titles at the Nelson in 2011 and took second in ‘13.

“It’s such a bummer for all of us that seem to play well there,” he said. “I hope that the other course is good, but we’re going to have to see how it goes. You win a couple of tournaments, and things change kind of rapidly.”

As it is, Bradley has a lot of other things that will require planning sooner rather than later. If he wasn’t aware already, his parents provided the reminder.

“Kaye made what she called ‘tyke spikes,’ ” Mark Bradley recalled after passing the shoes to his son. “We wrapped up Keegan and we’re walking around. Everybody’s like, ‘Here’s your new baby,’ and he’s 3 months old. I’d pull the covers back, they’d see the golf shoes and they’d just go crazy. …

“I’ve just kept them all these years. I’m just glad. They’re in the right place now.”

Oh, baby, are they ever.

Chip Shots: Bradley’s tournament continues to support the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation through the University of Vermont Cancer Center and the Vermont Children’s Hospital. … Bradley on his status atop the tour’s driving stats: “I don’t really care that much. It’s cool to see, but all I care about is FedEx Cup or where I finish. I have to drive the ball well in order to play well; it’s one of my strengths. It helps me to play well week to week.” … Lovemark was a late fill-in for Jon Curran, Bradley’s former high school teammate in Massachusetts and fellow PGA Tour pro. Lovemark has some knowledge of the area: His wife, Tiva, has frequented the Woodstock area for years, and the two were introduced by one of Bradley’s former college teammates at St. John’s. … Lovemark said during the pre-tourney clinic that he loosens his grip on the club when he’s attempting a fade, something Bradley said he’d never encountered. Bradley gave it a try and succeeded. “Uh-oh, I learned something today at the clinic,” he joked. … Golfers in the top 70 on the FedEx Cup list after this weekend qualify for Chicago. Bradley, Steele (25th) and Lovemark (54th) all are in good shape to advance from the Boston event, which starts on Friday.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.