Brandon Kelley wasn’t sure until the final excruciating seconds of post tournament announcements that he had won his first professional match. But when the news came, he breathed a healthy sigh of relief.
“As they were putting up the results, he said, ‘Dad, I think I won, finally,’” said his father Kevin. “He was very excited.”
The win was scored Jan. 23 and 24 in the Southwest Desert Pro Tour tournament contested at Palm Valley Golf Course near Litchfield Park.
What rendered the final winning announcement so agonizing was that Brandon and his father, who had caddied on the second day, entered the clubhouse believing Brandon was probably bound for a playoff against a tournament opponent.
“We thought (the opponent) was four under (par), but actually he was three under,” Kevin said. “We didn’t know until the last second he won.”
Brandon carded his winning four under 68 on the final hole with a clutch birdie.
On the first round of the tournament, he carded a two over par 74.
Prior to the win, Brandon had not been victorious in any pro event, but did finish second at a tournament held three months earlier a Wigwam Golf Course.
Following the victory at Palm Valley, the 24-year-old Kelley, who once starred for the Longhorn golf team, expressed his gratitude to his supporters.
“I want to thank Payson Concrete and Harry Parsons, and those at Payson Golf Course, The Rim Club and Chaparral Pines,” he said. “I appreciate all their support.”
During off weeks, Kelley practices locally at the three Rim Country golf courses.
The making of a champion
Kelley’s rise on the professional golf scene has been a stirring story of “small town boy makes good.”
He first showed his promise as an elementary school student playing statewide in youth golf tournaments.
After entering high school in 2000, he quickly became one of the state’s finest young golfers leading the Longhorns to numerous tournament, region and state honors.
As a junior, he teamed with Billy Bob Hoyt and Troy Marrs to pace the Horns to the 3A East Region title and a state runner-up finish.
In 2004, the three led the Longhorns to the Class 4A Grand Canyon Region championship. The victory represented a remarkable achievement, because Payson was then a rookie 4A member and the smallest school in the conference.
In April 2004, Kelley — then a PHS senior — inked a scholarship offer to play for Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif.
At the time, Kelley said he decided to attend PLNU because it was a place where he could continue his golf career, play year-round and take advantage of a strong academic curriculum. As a student at Rim Country Middle School and Payson High, he was an honor student earning mostly A grades. Teachers also considered him a model student and he was regarded as a student leader.
As a student-athlete at Point Loma, Kelley became one of the Sea Lions’ most accomplished players eventually earning All-American honors.
The 2007 season turned into a break out year for the former Longhorn who carded lower and lower scores as the campaign wore on, eventually helping the Sea Lions attain a No. 6 NAIA ranking.
In the NAIA region tournament he finished third overall as the Sea Lions advanced to the national championships in Indianapolis.
The highlight of Kelley’s senior season might have occurred during a return trip to his home state.
Participating in the Grand Canyon/Thunderbird Invitational, played at Palm Valley Golf Course, Kelley and his Point Loma teammates out-dueled several NCAA schools on the way to the tournament title.
After graduating from Point Loma last year, Kelley returned home to continue his pursuit of playing on the golf scene.
Help needed to continue pro play
Playing professional golf has been a longtime dream of Brandon Kelley. But doing so requires a good deal of money to pay entry fees and traveling expenses.
As Brandon continues his quest to make good as a pro and represent his hometown to the best of his ability, he’s in need of donations from sponsors.
He says he’s extremely grateful for any financial help he receives.
Donations can be mailed to him at: Brandon Kelley, 706 W. Sherwood, Payson, AZ 85541 or call him at (928) 978-1562.