Jerry Kelly’s mom on her son's life in golf
May 11, 2020
By Bret Lasky, PGATOUR.COM
- May 11, 2020
- Jerry Kelly's mom Lee has been there from the start of her son's career. (Courtesy of the Kellys)
Jerry Kelly first stepped foot on Maple Bluff Golf Course in Madison, Wisconsin when he was nine months old. He’s the youngest of five kids so all the other siblings were out and about at the pool or playing football so his mom, Lee, would bring him to the course with his toy truck and a blanket while she would hit balls on the range.
“He wanted to go to the golf course,” said Lee, who was an 8-12 handicap golfer for much of Jerry’s youth. “Luckily for me, it gave me a chance to go to the golf course.”
By the age of three he was putting on the practice green and then he started chipping. As long as Lee was with him, the course allowed little Jerry to play.
“Until he could shoot 72 for nine holes, he had to have an adult with him. We played a lot together.”
Jerry was a quick study. He won his first junior city golf tournament at the age of five.
The two never stopped playing over the years. They played, and won, Mother-Son tournaments at Maple Bluff and competed in state Mother-Son events as well.
Lee is like any proud mom. She has scrapbooks from each year of his career and can rattle off the accomplishments – Jerry still owns the low score at Pine Bluff of 62 and he was inducted into the Wisconsin State Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
But maybe the one that makes her heart beam most is his 2019 triumph at the American Family Insurance Championship.
“To win in your city, not just your state, he was one off at the Greater Milwaukee Open (PGA TOUR), but a Madison kid has never won in the state,” explained Lee. “To win in Madison, in front of the hometown crowd, was just unbelievable. He did it in front of the people that cared the most.”
Lee has also witnessed the lowest points of Jerry’s career. She was there three years in a row at Q-School when Jerry missed qualifying by one shot.
Lee remembers returning to the car after a third year of heartbreak and starting to cry in agony for her son. Jerry got back to the car and realized he hadn’t made it, again, once he looked at his mom.
But the tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy in 1995 when he earned his playing spot on the PGA TOUR.
“That was very special, it was just really special. You have the heartbreak and the happiness; we’ve experienced it all together. The good times are so good and the bad times are so tough, you learn to live with them.”
Once Jerry finally qualified for the TOUR, he never relinquished his spot. He played full-time on the regular tour from 1996-2016, won three times and collected 91 top 10 finishes before transitioning to PGA TOUR Champions in 2017.
“I’m very, very proud of what Jerry has done, it’s something he choose, that he wanted to do when he was very young. He’s given me and his father (Jack) great joy.”
Turns out though, golf wasn’t always what Jerry had in mind.
Lee says that in the fourth grade, Jerry wrote a school paper on how he was going to be a professional hockey player. He played all throughout childhood and even on his high school team. Lee recalled a story that one time, he got injured so bad playing hockey that he missed his sister’s wedding.
Lee told Jerry he could only play the first period and then his older brother, Scott, was going to bring him home. A minute before the end of the first period, he got hit in the rib cage underneath his pads and was throwing up blood. An ambulance had to take him to the emergency room. Scott called from the hospital and Lee remembers hearing her husband say, ‘how bad is it?’
It was a sign that hockey wasn’t meant to be.
Lee came to several PGA TOUR Champions in 2019 and plans to come to more in 2020 to continue to cheer on her soon.
She’ll be starting his 2020 scrapbook soon and is hoping the last picture is him winning the Charles Schwab Cup trophy.