By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
It was 40 degrees and raining. Keegan Bradley was standing on top of Killington Mountain Resort, strapped to his skis at the starting gate about to blaze down an icy trail for an alpine race when he turned to his father and said: “Golfing is more fun.”
The decision didn’t shock too many as his coaches and parents could see it swarming in his head, but before he became a PGA Champion and HP Byron Nelson Champion and before his golf trophies, Keegan Bradley was one of the top skiers in the state. Ski coaches called him a “thoroughbred” and he was so good that some thought Bradley had Olympic potential.
“When Keegan started to win at golf, it didn’t surprise me because in his ski career, he could go through the toughest courses and yet his form was so consistent,” said Steve Foley, who coached Bradley for 2-3 years on the team at Woodstock Union High School.
In Bradley’s racing debut in 1993, he captured third place for 6-yearolds on the Suicide Six Development Team. Ten years later, Bradley earned first place at the Okemo Open to put the Wasps in second place in the team competition. Bradley was named a Woodstock Maplefield’s Performer of the Week and the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Foley was in awe of his athleticism.
“In Keegan’s second run, he showed why he is just a sensational athlete, tearing down the course, even shinning a gate just above his boots that sent him flying almost parallel to the ground,” said Foley in a 2003 Vermont Standard story. “He managed to regain his balance and somehow stayed on his feet.”
Skiing runs in the Bradley family.
Bradley’s Uncle John Bradley raced professionally for four years and was a competitor of the World Pro Ski Tour. Bradley’s Aunt Pat Bradley was also a skier before she, like Bradley, ditched the white stuff for a tiny white ball. Pat went on to become a professional golfer, winning three of the four LPGA majors.
“That was the thing,” said Mark, a former ski coach, “when we went to a ski race in my family, you were expected by my dad to excel and come home with a piece of hard medal.”
Bradley first started walking in ski boots when he was two years old. But Mark said he really started in the womb.
|A photo of Keegan Bradley skiing in a race in 1999.|
His mother, Kaye, skied with Bradley until she was 7.5 months pregnant.
“I remember standing at the bottom of Suicide Six and waiting for Kaye to get down,” Mark said. “She had taken a fall and said OK that’s it, no more skiing.”
When Bradley, got older, he spent nearly every day on top of Suicide Six in Pomfret with his father. As soon as he got out of school around 2 p.m., he free skied. Bradley trained on Saturdays, raced on Sundays and then rested Mondays only to begin the entire week again.
He was a better skier than he was a golfer back then.
“It was serious business,” Mark said.
The Bradleys didn’t have the money to afford fancy skis or a ski school. What Bradley knew about both skiing and golfing, he learned mostly from his father.
“That’s where Keegan really got his ability and his athletic pride is from his dad I would say,” said Mark Hutchinson, a former ski coach at Suicide Six and friend of the Bradleys.
“His dad was a tremendous teacher,” he said. “He gave Keegan every opportunity to exceed in both sports.”
It was on the mountain that Bradley first learned how to handle success and failure.
Foley said that back then Bradley was so good that some thought he was “stuffy.”
But Foley never saw that side of him. Foley recalled one race at Pico Mountain where Bradley won a race after following his advice. After he won, Bradley started jumping up and down and hugging Foley.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘This isn’t stuffy,’” Foley said. “‘This is youthful exuberance at its finest.’ I could tell he really wanted to pick my brain.”
Bradley was on the slopes everyday in the winter and on the golf course everyday in the summer.
“I just remember Keegan being different from the other kids,” Hutchinson said. “Even though he didn’t say a lot, you could see the wheels were turning in there all the time.”
Just like his Aunt Pat, once Bradley made the decision to pursue golf, he never turned back.
“Since his kindergarten class, all he ever wanted to be was a PGA Tour professional,” Mark said.
In the summer, Bradley went to work with his dad and played 36 holes day after day after day.
“Keegan, he just loves golf,” Mark said. “He loves it so much. When skiing was over he couldn’t wait to get out there with his clubs.”
The decision turned out successful. Bradley won the HP Byron Nelson Championship in 2011 was a PGA Champion the same year. He was a member of the Ryder Cup Team in 2012 and won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational the same year. Mark says part of his son’s golf success has to do with where he’s from.
“Keegan is a Vermont Yank and he’s tough,” Mark said. “When he gets into any situation, Vermonters don’t quit and that’s helped him with his golf.”
Mark is the only skier left in the Bradley family. He still skis every chance that he can get in Jackson, Wyo. where he is the head golf professional at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club. He thinks someday, his son will return to the snow sport as well.
“I think there will be a day when Keegan will go skiing again,” he said. “ I really do.”