Caddy, not Zamboni right call
By Ferd Lewis
It is days like yesterday, when they glimpse him on television, that Jerry Kelly's friends have to concede he knew what he was doing.
Days, for example, when his sun-drenched day at the office consists of 18 holes in the Sony Open in Hawai'i one stroke off the lead and they are home in Madison, Wis., where the hope is the day's high temperature might nose into the 40s.
Days when he is in the midst of a lucrative career on the PGA Tour, shooting a 4-under-par 64 at Waialae Country Club, and their playing days in professional hockey are behind them.
They afford Kelly a satisfying last laugh on the times when, as a golfer and hockey player in high school and college, the hockey-only players would wonder out loud about why he was "playing that wimpy sport."
"I used to hear that in the halls a lot. But, thankfully, not as much as the guys who just played golf," Kelly said.
No longer, however is he teased about picking up the wrong stick for six months out of the year. Long since vanished are the times when they would make fun of him traipsing around after the little white ball in the spring and summer.
"Now, it is, 'man did you pick the right sport,' " Kelly said. "They tell me, 'you sure knew what you were doing.' They're 35 and haven't played hockey for a few years and now, all of a sudden, here I am, just coming into my prime."
The prime of a career that earned him nearly $1.5 million last year despite not winning a tournament.
From the time he was old enough to skate through the days at the University of Hartford, which had given him a hockey scholarship, Kelly had juggled the two sports and divided his passions.
"Hitting a shot (in golf) is the exact same thing as a slap shot. You take the wrist out of it and use the big muscles and just bust it out there," Kelly said.
"Probably eight of the guys I grew up with or played with went on to play pro hockey in some form."
Only when Hartford folded its program, did Kelly reluctantly narrow his focus, even if he has maintained much of the hockey-player mentality.
"It (the loss of hockey) was a blessing in disguise because I probably would have ended up playing minor league hockey and, with my size, ended up getting my butt kicked regularly, too."
Indeed, as a 5-foot-11, 165-pound center, it would have likely been a painful career dead end that would have spelled the end of what he might have entertained. "At my size and with the way that players were getting bigger and bigger, you have to be another (Wayne) Gretzky to make it in the NHL."
As he finished off his opening round with six birdies over the final 11 holes yesterday, square in the running, Kelly had reason to count his blessings.
Not the least of them being that, unlike many of his hockey friends, he still has his teeth.