2020 will be Keegan Bradley’s tenth season on the PGA Tour and yet none have gone quite like his rookie season back in 2011. He burst onto the scene as a 25-year-old after getting his PGA Tour card at the second attempt, and what an impact! Making cut after cut, Bradley gained a string of good finishes in notable events.
At the Bridgestone Invitational, he was leading after 36 holes, but eventually collapsed to finish T-15. The following week he went to Atlanta and won the PGA Championship on his debut appearance at a major event, triumphing in a playoff against Jason Dufner.
He was able to go back and win the WGC at Firestone, atoning for his final round capitulation 12 months earlier for his third PGA win. However, since then, he’s had only one triumph on the tour.
Bradley talks about the childhood inspirations that encouraged him to turn to golf, and how that resilience he tapped into in his debut season could help him get back on track…
RSNG While the last few years have been tough, is it true that you almost weren’t a golfer in the first place?
KEEGAN BRADLEY, FROM THE SLOPES TO THE TEE MAT ‘Haha! Yeah – I grew up in Vermont, a really cold part of the United States. We had snow a lot of the year, and skiing is really the sport of choice out there.’
‘I did play golf, but I was much better at downhill ski racing and I was pretty damn good at it. I was competitive, ultra-competitive and I would do anything to get out on those hills. I do miss skiing, but I do not miss the cold, haha!’
RSNG So, was that the reason you swapped skis for golf clubs?
KB ‘Maybe I would have thought a lot more about taking it up as a profession if I didn’t like the heat so much! Skiing looks a lot of fun but there’s also a lot of standing around, a lot of climbing, a lot of spending time in ski lifts.’
‘Also, the cold really starts to bite after a while. When half of your time is spent trying to warm up you really perhaps think it might be more fun in sunnier climes… if that opportunity presents itself, which it did with golf. I think it was the right choice.’
‘There are always a couple of guys in each tournament who you can go to and are brilliant for keeping confidence up, or picking it up off the floor for you’
RSNG You can say that again… especially after you won the PGA Championship on your debut in a major tournament?
KB ‘Yeah, I mean that’s not something I could have written, right, even in my wildest dreams? Everything went right for me that week, right down to me preparing correctly and back-to-back birdie putts on the 16th and 17th holes.’
‘The crazy thing was that the week before I had a complete breakdown in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational after leading the tournament at the halfway point, and I was still only a couple of shots off the lead going into the final round, but Sunday wasn’t a great day for me.’
**RSNG A couple of fellow pros who had been there and done it themselves, were on hand to offer advice, weren’t they?
‘Yeah, that’s right. I’ve always found there are a couple of guys in each tournament who you can. Go to and are brilliant for keeping confidence up, or picking it up off the floor for you. We all need a lift when things are going against us.’
‘Those guys were, unbelievably, Camilo Villegas and Phil Mickleson. I mean, that just shows you how great the guys on this tour are. They let me know that everyone out here has talent and the margins are fine, and that resilience is one of the key assets in a professional sportsperson’s make-up. It worked for the very next week and I couldn’t thank them enough.’
‘If I can go anywhere near achieving as much as my aunt Pat did, then I won’t have gone far wrong! She was brilliant and such an inspiration for me’
RSNG When you were growing up and wanting to be a golfer, who were the players that you were most drawn to watching and following?
KB ‘There were so many great players when I was growing up in the mid-to-late 1990s and it was such a good era for golf. However, if I had to pick out anyone who I would probably say influenced me the most, it would have to be Fred Couples.’
‘I was very fortunate to meet him not long after I won the PGA (Championship) and even though I had done that, I was still in awe of this man who I had watched playing on my TV when I was a kid. There he was, standing right in front of me and it was at that point where I felt at home in golf and realised how far I had come.’
‘The other person who I cannot forget at all is my aunt, Pat. She played on the Ladies PGA Tour and was one of the most successful players, winning six majors. If I can go anywhere near achieving as much as my aunt Pat did, then I won’t have gone far wrong! She was brilliant and such an inspiration for me.’
WHAT NEXT? Read how Brit Matt Wallace has stormed the European Tour here.