The Bradley Bell Rings Again
When Keegan Bradley stepped up to the 18th tee at the BMW Championship on Monday he held a one-stroke lead over Justin Rose.
Inadvisably, we fired off a text to Pat Bradley, who was watching the action on Golf Channel at home in Hyannis: “He’s going to do it!”
Seconds later, Keegan snap-hooked his drive into the muck on the left side of the finishing hole. He then air-mailed his second shot into the stands to the right of the green.
The old Lowell Sun Jinx strikes again.
But no. Rose followed Bradley’s bogey with one of his own and there would be a playoff for the FedEx Cup playoff tournament title.
Pat Bradley, Keegan’s aunt, texted back: “Rosary out.”
A half hour or so later, when Keegan dropped his par putt on the first playoff hole to earn his first PGA Tour win in six years, I was never so relieved.
“Never in doubt!” was the next text.
“Thanks,” she replied. “Just rang Keegan’s Cape Cod ship’s bell.”
Oh yes, the old Bradley Bell. Brings back memories...
For those too young to remember, or too old to remember, we offer a short primer on Pat Bradley:
The Wizard of Westford started playing golf at the age of 11 at Nashua Country Club. In 1967, at age 16, she won the New Hampshire Women’s Amateur. She went from Westford Academy to an All-American career at Florida International, turning pro in 1974.
In 1975 she won her first pro tournament, in Melbourne, Australia, and back home her ecstatic mother, Kay, went out onto the porch and rang a cow bell the family had hanging around (Hey, Westford was a different town back then). With the time difference it was early morning on Main Street and some of the neighbors were startled awake, but so what.
That bell is now in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Once the floodgates opened she kept winning. In 1986 she came as close to a Grand Slam as any golfer, male or female, when she won three of the LPGA’s four major tournaments and finished just three shots back in the other one, the U.S. Open, despite opening with a 76.
In 1988 her career was derailed by two big blows: A diagnosis of Grave’s disease, and the death of her father, Richard. But she got the help she needed and got back to doing what she did best: Grinding it out on the golf course.
She took aim at the LPGA Hall of Fame, at the time considered to be the toughest one in sports for which to qualify. Thirty wins were needed, and for a time it looked like she might fall short. But in 1991 she won numbers 29 and 30 in back-to-back weeks and became just the 12th woman inducted.
Pat’s career ended with 31 wins and six majors. She won six of those tournaments in playoffs, and won the last three playoffs of her career with birdies on the first or second hole.
Now, following the Bradley family tradition, Pat is ringing the bell for Keegan, whose victory was worth $1.6 million, a figure Pat (with $5.7 million career earnings) took 10 years of blood, sweat and tears to reach.
Keegan Bradley, the son of Pat’s brother Mark, leaped onto the world stage in his rookie year by winning the 2011 PGA Championship, but has struggled since winning in 2012, in part because his anchored putting style was banned by the USGA.
In recent months he has shown real signs of coming around. And now this win, in a FedEx Cup playoff event, propels him into the Tour Championship in Atlanta the week after next. It’s a comeback story worthy of the Bradley name.
And proof that rosary beads in the right hands can overcome the Sun Jinx.
Dennis Whitton’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org