BROOKLINE, Mass. — Keegan Bradley has had this week marked on his calendar for years.
He has done his best not to push himself further or try to make it bigger than what was already in his mind. But this was always going to be an absolute necessity for him.
Bradley, 36, is currently the unofficial dean of New England golf on the PGA Tour. He grew up in Vermont and built a strong loyalty to Boston sports teams as a staunch supporter of the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins.
So when the USGA announced that the 2022 US Open would be played at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, Bradley knew in his heart that somehow, some way, he had to be on the course.
That meant performing well enough to qualify or go through the grueling 36-hole sectional qualifier the week before the Open.
In his mind, if a US Open was to be played in his backyard, Bradley would very well be on the course.
And now, here he is, and he’ll play alongside Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise on Thursday in the first round.
And there he was Tuesday night at Fenway Park, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before his beloved Red Sox played the A’s.
No ball has yet been hit in the competition and it has already been a special week for Bradley.
“My wife, Jillian, grew up in Vermont [and her] Uncle is Carlton Fisk – [we] call him ‘Uncle Pudge,’” Bradley said Wednesday, still talking about the strike he threw Tuesday night. “What a fun night. I’ve thrown the first pitch again [after he won that 2011 PGA Championship as a PGA Tour rookie]but I hadn’t even met my wife yet or [had] kids. Being there with them and being on the field and having 20+ family members there, it was really, really fun.”
Bradley, who played college golf at St. John’s, said he tried to put the fact that this US Open would be at Brookline “in the back of my mind, because this was important to me.”
He said he knew it was a big problem for everyone else when none of his family members would talk about it around him.
“It was never acknowledged or talked about until I did it,” Bradley said. “Then I get texts: ‘I can’t wait to see you.’ ”
Bradley essentially secured his place on the US Open field with his second-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championships in May.
“When I came in second place, I was pretty bummed out,” he said. “But the silver lining was that I was here and I didn’t have to go through that horrible 36-hole day. [sectional qualifying]. There’s something different playing in a US Open when you qualify like that, I think. I’m excited. I love coming back here. I love going to the local stores and hearing the talk and the accents and talking about the Celtics.
“There’s a sense of calm around here.”
Bradley said he has never played at The Country Club, which he called “sort of the crown jewel” of New England golf.
He attended the first and third days of the 1999 Ryder Cup played at The Country Club, and witnessed the American team’s iconic comeback over Europe when they overcame a 10-6 deficit to win the singles.
“I was actually on my dad’s shoulders right on this 18th green,” Bradley said. “Everyone ran to the green. I asked him if I could run out to the green and he said, ‘Okay, I’m going to stand. [near a] twisted tree. ”
Bradley, as he spoke Wednesday, wasn’t standing far from that same tree.
“I don’t take this for granted,” Bradley said. “I don’t know when the next time a Major is in Boston, so this is great.”
Bradley said he was “a nervous wreck” all Tuesday in anticipation of throwing that first pitch at Fenway.
“I kept telling a lot of wives, ‘Why did I agree to do this?’ ” he said. “This is all I need this week… the pressure every time I walk through the players’ mess, everyone’s like, ‘I’m going to the game. I’m recording it. You better throw a good one.
“I was actually standing behind the mound before the pitch. [and] things were getting blurry. That’s how uncomfortable she was. He was proud of the strike I threw…or the ball I threw. Sometimes in my life there are moments that are shocking, and being on that mound at Fenway Park with my family there and playing here is really surreal.”
Imagine how much more surreal the week would be if Bradley won the US Open in his backyard.