‘The trials and tribulations of a pro golfer…’ by KB Hill

Injury… rotten luck….poor management….. an inability to cope with the pressure of performance…. waning motivation…… are just a few of the impediments that confront precociously-talented youngsters as they bid to fulfil their potential.

Often, disillusioned and with a sense of betrayal, they choose to walk away from the sport that inspired dreams of super-stardom.

Some, like Andrew Kelly, after ‘going along for the ride’, come to terms with their position in its pecking-order, re-group, and continue their love affair with the game.

This is the story of one of Wangaratta’s finest golfing ‘exports’………..

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I’ve arranged to contact him earlier this week. It’s late afternoon, and he’s halfway through a practice round at his home club, Metropolitan/Kingswood. The ‘swish’ of club against ball can be distinctly heard in the background.

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“This is pure bliss,” he says. “I thoroughly enjoy myself on the golf course, even when I’m playing on my own. I guess, in that respect, I’m happy with my own company.”

That was how he was seduced by golf in the first place. He was about 12, he reckons, when he and a couple of mates, Tom Scullie and Jonathan Ryan, used to sneak out for a hit at either of the two local Clubs.

Tommy says he still has the card from the first game they played, at Jubilee.

“I had 132, and knocked Andie off. He went around in 140.”

Andrew admits he was no good at footy, even though his height excited Junior officials….”Too slow, too awkward…. I got talked into playing with Imperials. They plonked me at full forward and I kicked 4 goals one week. But I went home and said to Dad: ‘That’s the last game I play.’ ”

Instead, golf became his obsession.

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Wangaratta’s legendary 15-time champ, John Southwell, recalls playing with a 14 year-old Kelly, and being impressed by his short-game. “He was an excellent striker of the ball. I thought he was a star in the making.”

Southwell was spot-on.

Andrew spent most nights after school, and every week-end, at Waldara. His parents grew accustomed to driving him around the State to tournaments and clinics.

Within two years he had become a dual Victorian Junior champion. In the first , he was 7 shots up, heading into the final round, but bogeyed the last three holes, to sneak home. I ask him about the title he won the next year (2004) ……… “Actually, I shit that one in,” he quips.

His success at under-age level led to him twice captaining the Victorian junior team….then representing Australia against New Zealand in competition for the annual Claire Higson Trophy.

“Jason Day was the stand-out junior at the time. Then there was a group of us on a similar level, which also included the likes of Louis Fuller (S.A)  and Adam Downton (N.S.W) .”

The 2005 National Junior Championship resulted in a play-off between the two Queenslanders, Day and Eagle Chang. Chang’s birdie on the first play-off hole at Barwon Heads helped him to edge out the future World No.1. Kelly finished in third position.

Andrew was 16 when he accepted an offer to play Senior Pennant Golf with Kingswood. The sight of the lanky kid hauling his clubs onto the 7.30am train bound for the ‘big smoke’ each weekend became as regular as clockwork.

“I had to move from Galen College to Wang High for the last couple of school years. It was a bit more convenient, with my golf commitments,” he recalls….. “But gee, I missed a heap of Mondays in Year 12 because I’d arrive home late Sunday night, and be too buggered to get up for school. It was amazing that I even got through.”

He played four years of Pennant, and spent a year at the VIS, which was designed to hone his obvious talents:
“But I really think it proved detrimental.”

Then, out of the blue came an approach which was too good to refuse – the offer of a Golf Scholarship from the University of Arizona, in conjunction with furthering his education. “I loved it; thrived on the challenges it presented. But, unfortunately, my golf game went ass-up. A lot of people admired my swing, which was nice to hear, of course. In the US, though, I was hitting the ball 10 yards further than I’d ever done, but spraying it 20 yards either side of the fairway.”

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“In the end I’d lost all confidence, and had no idea what I was doing wrong. The flaws in my game had caught me out.”

Andrew’s a relaxed, easy-going sort of bloke. The only time he gets frustrated, he says, is on the golf course. And this predicament drove him mad.

Two and a half years into his studies he had a decision to make. Should he soldier on and obtain his degree (which might not be all that much value to him back home ) or return home and try to rectify the problems in his Golf game.

He came to the conclusion that his future lay in golf, so he landed back in Australia, aged 22, promptly turned pro, and sought the help of a prominent Sports Psychologist, Dr. Noel Blundell.

“He did a great job in getting me back on track……….” he says.

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For the next seven years he experienced the pleasures and pitfalls of the Professional Golf circuit. His journeys would take him away from Melbourne for 38 weeks of each year, as he ‘lived the dream’, travelling the length and breadth of Australia.

He tested himself on the Canadian circuit in 2011 and played the OneAsia tour in Korea and China, with a modicum of success.

A ninth-place finish in the Korean Open and a second-prize purse behind Australian Andrew Stephens in the 2014 South Pacific Open at New Caledonia resulted in handy prize-money.

Andrew also rates his third-place in the West Australian PGA, and finishing fourth in the Victorian Open among his better performances on the Tour.

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But he’d come to the conclusion that he fell a touch short of the level required to reach the top on the Pro Tour.

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He decided to step away from the circuit, spending three months as a teaching Pro at Cranbourne, then moving over to the same role at Patterson River Golf Club, a sand-belt course at Bonbeach.

He’d had enough of that after a year and a half. “I don’t miss it,” he says. “It might sound glamorous, but it’s a tough gig, instructing people.”

He retains a few long-time students and teaches 2-3 times a week as well as supporting a couple of the teaching Pros in the area.

Andrew’s doing a Commerce Degree at the moment and dabbles enthusiastically in the Share Market.

He describes himself as a part-time golfer but believes he’s hitting the ball as well now as he ever has:

“Who knows. Having a break from being a full-timer has probably helped. It’s certainly freshened me up a bit.”

He competes in many of the Pro-Am’s and estimates he’s won 25 in the last few years. The single or two-round events are right down his alley, he says..

Back in 2013, he streeted a field of 190 (including 70 Pros) to win at Yeppoon ( Central Qld ), blasting a course-record 9-under par 62.

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After taking out events at Portarlington, Launceston’s Mowbray and Kooringal this year, he set a course record in clinching the Wagga Pro-Am.

Andrew regularly pops back to Wang to catch up with his parents and, if he gets an opportunity, likes to duck out to Waldara for a hit.

At 32, he believes there’s still plenty of improvement left in him: “My short game – chipping and putting – is good, and I’m driving quite well at the moment. I’m hopeful of picking up a few more wins in the years to come.”

The big fellah’s certainly not going to die wondering……….

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This story appeared first on KB Hill’s website, On Reflection. See this and other great KB articles by clicking HERE.

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

 

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