Best friends look for Tour card at Q-School

Keegan Bradley hits a tee shot during the first round of the 2009 Nationwide Tour Miccosukee Championship.

Keegan Bradley hits a tee shot during the first round of the 2009 Nationwide Tour Miccosukee Championship.

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They will be separated the next few days by a few hundred miles, but more germane to the story is what joins Keegan Bradley and Jon Curran.

A close friendship and a shared dream.

“We have a great relationship. We’re roommates, we’re friends, we’re always pushing each other to get better,” Bradley said. “We’re extremely competitive and we have serious matches, and in some cases that could be bad, but we’re able to turn (off the competition) when the golf is over.”

These days, the digs is an apartment in Orlando, Fla., but years earlier Bradley and Curran shared space at Hopkinton (Mass.) High School, from classrooms to the practice range where the challenge was always to outdo each other.

photo

Jon Curran during the first round of the 2007 U.S. Amateur at the Olympic Club.

Years later, that much hasn’t changed.

“We put out buckets on the range, from 50 to 120 yards,” Curran said. “We pay $5 for a ‘make,’ but let me tell you, we’re pretty competitive. We don’t like it when the other guy makes it.”

A lot of that competitive fire takes place these days at Rio Pinar Country Club, where Bradley and Curran are part of a small army of players with designs on a PGA Tour career. But starting Wednesday, the golf will not be at their home course; instead, Bradley will be at the Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Curran hundreds of miles north in Florida’s Panhandle, at the Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach.

It’s the annual PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, and Bradley and Curran – former high school teammates, current roommates, best friends – are taking on the second-stage challenge. Yes, the stakes are a bit higher than in the fall of 2003 when Bradley, then a senior, and Curran, a junior, led Hopkinton High to a rousing 27-stroke victory in the Division II state championship, but both players are trying to maintain the spirit that has always guided them.

“I know second stage is important,” Curran said. “But you’ve got to try and put that out of your mind and just play golf.”

That philosophy served both players well in the first stage. Shooting 68-66-65-70, Bradley roared to a dominating, eight-stroke victory in Valdosta, Ga. Curran, meanwhile, went for 65-66-72-67 to tie for fifth in Florence, S.C.

But if they are to graduate from the mini tours, Bradley and Curran know that success is mandatory at the second stage. That being the reality, they can hardly wait for the opportunity, because this is what they’ve been talking about since those high school days.

Truth be told, given his bloodlines, one can imagine that Bradley has been waiting on this for nearly all of his young life. His aunt, Pat Bradley, is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, one of her sport’s greatest competitors, and arguably her nephew’s biggest fan.

“I wish him all the best,” Pat Bradley said. “I’ll be glued to the Internet. He is such a hard worker.”

If there is a side order of deja vu with this story, it would revolve around Pat’s mother and Keegan’s grandmother. When Kay Bradley 35 years ago recognized that her daughter needed help to get into the world of the LPGA, the proud mother went to fellow members of Nashua (N.H.) Country Club and organized financial support.

“She told them they could be members of ‘Pat’s Pack,’ ” Pat Bradley said with a laugh. “Now she’s calling it Keegan’s Clan.”

Yes, Kay Bradley stepped to the forefront when her grandson graduated from St. John’s in the spring of 2008. She wrote letters and organized folks to offer financial backing, “bringing things full cycle,” Pat Bradley said.

“There’s never been any skepticism on my family’s part,” Keegan said. “Especially with my aunt Pat. In fact, I’d say my family’s looked forward to this, because it’s been a little quiet since aunt Pat retired (her full-time playing days ended in 2000).”

Life simply revolves around golf for Kay Bradley and her six children, Pat outnumbered but never outplayed by five brothers – Rick, Tommy, Mark (Keegan’s dad), Chris, and John.

“Golf is the common denominator. It’s what brings us together wherever in the world we are,” Pat Bradley said.

The family golf trips to Ireland are fond memories, but the rallying cause right now is Keegan’s pursuit of the PGA Tour. Never a heralded junior player, he has seemingly blossomed in the year since leaving St. John’s: two victories in Hooters Tour tournaments mixed in with a few successful Monday qualifiers on the Nationwide Tour serving as a steppingstone to his first-stage romp.

“I was in Australia watching the scores on Internet,” Pat Bradley said. “When I saw him win by eight, I just about jumped through the roof.”

That family loyalty is priceless, Keegan said, but he is quick to credit another aspect of his support system. That is, Curran, his high school teammate and great friend. They went their separate ways after Hopkinton High – Bradley to St. John’s in the summer of 2004, Curran to Vanderbilt the next year – only to reunite earlier this summer.

“I was waiting for him to turn pro (after his senior season was complete at Vanderbilt),” Bradley said. “It was tough traveling alone to Hooters Tour tournaments, but when we started traveling together, we started pushing each other again.

“I know he helps me, and I think I help him.”

Just like the good old days, which they hope morph into even better times.

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