Jerry Kelly punctuates his first senior major victory with a special highlight
Jerry Kelly is a man without a poker face who nonetheless took down his challengers with an ace that no one saw coming on Sunday afternoon.
Kelly, his lead slipping away, won the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship by virtue of a hole-in-one on the 177-yard 12th hole at the South course at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
With a single swing, Kelly’s one-stroke lead became three, then four when playing partner Scott Parel bogeyed the 13th hole. From there it was little more than a formality before Kelly could begin to celebrate his seventh PGA Tour Champions victory and the first major championship of his career.
He beat Parel by two, earning $450,000 and an exemption to the PGA Tour’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass next spring.
“I love that idea, the Players Championship,” Kelly said. “I can’t wait to go back there. And just to have a major out here is pretty huge for me. Never getting one, not even getting that close on the regular tour, it feels great.”
Kelly, 53, is an animated player whose demeanor takes any guess work out of how every shot’s result while it’s in the air. That special highlight on the 12th hole was no exception.
“Come on,” he shouted, easily heard over the absence of a din with no fans permitted on the premises.
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Only moments before, Kelly had bogeyed the 11th hole to see his lead cut to one. Then on the next tee, he changed clubs.
“I know the wind switched,” he said. “It was going in and left to right and now it’s in and right to left. I was able to take some off it and cut a little 5-iron instead of a 6 and starting it over the bunker. It made me a little happier.”
Kelly won with a final-round of one-under-par 69 on a familiar course for PGA Tour veterans, and one that over four rounds played up to its major-championship pedigree. His aggregate score was three-under 277 on a course that has hosted three PGA Championships as well as 20 World Golf Championship events.
Parel was the only other player to finish under par (one under) after completing a round of even-par 70.
Parel, who never played the PGA Tour but has won three times on the PGA Tour Champions, began the final round trailing Kelly by a stroke. Parel briefly tied for the lead at the outset and again trailed by one after three holes, when inclement weather caused a two-hour, 15-minute delay.
By then, it basically was only a two-man competition, and it remained tight until Kelly’s tee shot on 12, struck on a perfect line, hitting about eight feet short of the hole and rolling out and into the cup.
Colin Montgomerie, who began the final round tied for second, shot a one-over 71 and tied for third with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who closed with a 69.