Wildman's Corner: Bradley gives St. John's hope
Monday, January 16, 2012
St. John's quietly as gone unknown in college golf over the last few years. But, a certain alumnus is changing that outlook.
The last time the Red Storm made it to an NCAA regional was back in 2007, when they were led by junior Keegan Bradley.
93rd PGA Championship: Keegan Bradley
A look at PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley
Fast forward to 2012 and Bradley is still making an impression on his former university.
Last year, Bradley made plenty of headlines as not only the PGA Tour's rookie of the year, but winning his first major at the PGA Championship.
His alma mater is still looking for its first Big East Conference crown.
But, thanks to Bradley's stardom, St. John's golf is starting to once again appear on people's radars.
"There's a different level of respect in the Northeast for us," St. John's coach Frank Darby said. "His success has helped recruiting a bit, and it shows we do things differently up here."
Darby described Bradley as a workhorse in college – a player that was addicted to practicing and playing.
"When the winter break hit, he would still be playing and hitting balls every day until Christmas," Darby explained. "Sometimes it was tough for me to find him a course just to go practice at."
Bradley's success away from St. John's has helped the Red Storm more than you would think. Last fall, Darby recruited Mitchell Hadfield of England, who will tee off for the first time this spring. Hadfield is from the same club as PGA Tour star Lee Westwood - Worksop Golf Club in Nottinghamshire, England. Darby partially credits Bradley's success for landing the young prospect.
St. John's athletics as a whole have not only been rejuvenated by Bradley's success, but also the inspirational story of men's basketball coach, Steve Lavin, and his top-10 hoops team.
"With the different teams' success here, it shows kids you can work hard and win in the Northeast climate," Darby said. "The alumni (are) excited, as is the local community."
Heading into this season, Darby and his team got a nice practice round and pep talk from Bradley shortly after his PGA Championship victory. The Red Storm and Bradley went to Glen Oaks Club for 18 holes and to hear Bradley offer some motivation.
"He told the guys to always stay hungry and work hard," Darby said. "His main theme, though, was even though you think the Tour players are good, you can't imagine how good they really are until you're out there. Always keep working."
St. John's is ranked 148th in the country but has an impressive head-to-head record of 54-22-1. In the spring, the team will get its chance to compete against top fields at the Morris Williams (Texas), Wildcat Invitational (Arizona) and Anteater Invitational (UC Irvine) before heading to Florida for the Big East Championship.
Last year, Bradley was the Cinderella story at one of golf's majors. Perhaps this year, St. John's can continue the Red Storm trend and wear the glass slipper in the NCAA postseason.