Keegan Bradley was 12 years old, standing on top of the mountain in the middle of a brutal Vermont winter. Like any New England kid, he loved to ski. He got pretty good at it. But, with the sleet pounding his face and the cold piercing through his bones, he chose there was a better way down.
He told himself, “This is not as much fun as golf; I love golf so much more.”
Bradley won a major championship on his first try Sunday. He forced a three-hole playoff and won after sprawling Jason Dufner by five strokes with three holes to play in the PGA Championship. The Wanamaker Trophy was his.
Staring at the gleaming silver cup, he said, “I can’t believe this thing is sitting next to me.”
Bearing in mind his derivation – his aunt, Pat Bradley, is an LGPA Hall of Famer – this was not so unlikely at all.
The nephew said , “I grew up going to Pat’s tournaments and totally idolizing her and wanting to be like her, I remember as a kid going to her tournaments and literally staring her in the face and … she was so into it, she would not even recognize me. And I thought that was cool.”
The future looks bright for Bradley. He always has been a guy who stayed out of the limelight, even with his famous name and impressive rookie season. He already had a triumph, arresting the Byron Nelson in a playoff in May.
Many touted guys such as Dustin Johnson and Anthony Kim as the future of American golf in a world no longer conquered by Tiger Woods.
Make room for another. Bradley was the one, not Johnson or Kim, who ended the greatest American drought of the current Grand Slam age, a winless stretch covering six straight majors since Phil Mickelson succeeded the 2010 Masters.
Bradley said, “Ever since I was 10 years old, I’ve kind of flown under the radar, I had what I thought was a pretty good college career (at St. John’s), but I never really got noticed. Same in junior golf and kind of the same out here. I’ve been having a good year, and that’s just the way it happens with me, which is fine. I’m happy with it.”
Bradley knows life is about to change and he’s happy with that also.
“It’s cool to be thought of as one of those guys now, I’ve always wanted, growing up, to win tournaments and win majors,” he said.
Bradley does not mean to be one-major wonder either. There have been lots of those, particularly at the PGA, everyone from Shaun Micheel to Rich Beem.
“I don’t want to be one of the guys that kind of disappears,” Bradley said.