'Irish toughness' drives Bradley to first Major after nightmare hole
Published 16/08/2011 | 05:00
ANYONE who doubts that Keegan Bradley's victory at the PGA Championship was fuelled by fierce Irish passion will be put straight by the 25-year-old's proud auntie Pat, herself a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
"He showed some Bradley toughness," said the six-time Major-winner of her nephew's defiance in the face of overwhelming adversity in Atlanta.
"We're an Irish family and we have that Irish toughness," continued Pat Bradley, whose grandparents came from Ballycotton, Co Cork. "I'm just so very proud of Keegan, the way he fought back and brought it home.
"It's a wonderful win to honour his father Mark, who has been a PGA professional for many, many years. Keegan has honoured his dad with this win."
Golf's newest Major champion visited Ireland with his family 17 years ago but the next time he comes, Bradley is determined it will be to play in the Irish Open.
"My family is intensely Irish," he explains. "I'm very proud of my heritage and even have a shamrock in the logo on my golf bag. I was over there when I was about eight and I really want to go back again so bad.
"Some day I want to play in the Irish Open, I really do," added Bradley.
The clan still has very strong links with Ireland's south west. Pat is an honorary member of Old Head and Kenmare golf clubs.
Meanwhile, three of Keegan's five uncles, Chris, John and Tom, are regular competitors in and once won Kenmare's annual 'Three Brothers Championship'.
As he cradled the Wanamaker Trophy, Bradley explained how he used to hero-worship his aunt Pat as a boy and grew up determined to emulate her.
"I grew up going to her tournaments and totally idolising her," he said. "I remember watching her as a kid, literally staring her in the face and she was so into it, she'd not even recognise me.
"I thought that was cool," added Bradley, who showed exactly the same focus in brushing off a potentially disastrous triple-bogey six on 15 last Sunday and following up with stunning birdies on 16 and 17 to force a three-hole play-off with the flagging Jason Dufner.
Of that ill-starred moment on 15, Bradley said: "I just kept telling myself, don't let that hole define this whole tournament.
"I'd played so well and I didn't want to be remembered as the guy who tripled that hole and went on to bogey in. Walking to the next tee, I just kept telling myself to pretend nothing happened; just hit the 16th fairway and that was the best shot I hit all week. I striped my driver right down the middle and 20 yards further than before."
Dufner (34), yet to register a tournament win in seven years on the US tour, led by five with four holes remaining but Sunday was as much a story of Bradley's gutsy fightback as his rival's collapse.
Having already marked his first season on the PGA Tour with victory in the Byron Nelson Classic, Bradley (pictured below) now must be a contender for US Player of the Year, becoming the first 'rookie' since Tiger Woods to win that award.
"This is all unbelievable, considering two and a half years ago I was on the Hooters Tour grinding for survival, just hoping for the chance to keep playing," said Bradley, who credits his dad, now a club pro in Wyoming, with urging him to play golf as a boy.
Back then in Vermont, where he was raised, everyone put their clubs away in winter and hit the ski slopes, and young Bradley had a bright future in that sport, until age 12, when he decided golf was the game for him.
"It was a slalom at Killington, and I'll never forget it," he says. "It was raining, cold, sleeting and I was sitting on top of that hill freezing and having no fun, going 'I love golf so much more'."
Some 13 years later, Bradley has made history, becoming the first golfer to win a Major with a long putter. "I'm very, very proud of that," he said. "I remember people telling me nobody had won a Major with it when I first switched two and a half years ago.
"I remember looking at them and going 'well, I'm going to be the first one'."
Clearly, you can take the Irish out of Ireland but ...