Jerry Kelly practically had to be dragged off The Broadmoor’s East Course.
The former hockey player watched the venue’s U.S. Senior Open setup beat up his fellow golfers throughout Thursday’s first round and he wasn’t having it, punching back to the tune of a 4-under-par 66 that was good for a two-shot lead.
“Man, I ran out of holes,” he said. “No lie.”
Kelly jumped out with four birdies in his first six holes, then settled into a battle with howling winds that couldn’t decide on a direction and deep rough that left many scorecards painted black with bogeys.
A group of four players — Deane Pappas, Kevin Sutherland, Rocco Mediate and Kelly’s playing partner Miguel Angel Jimenez — came in two strokes behind at 68. Lee Janzen, Billy Mayfair and Scott Parel rounded out the under-par contingent.
That’s it. Just eight players saw red of the 155 that began the day.
“Anytime you shoot in the red numbers at a U.S. Open, you’re trilled,” Mayfair said.
Thirty-two players shot 80 or worse. Among them was Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz, a surprise qualifier, who shot a 15-over 85 because of erratic play with the driver.
And Smoltz still beat four players, including Stan Souza, who had the day’s lone hole-in-one.
“I don’t have enough game for this course yet,” Smoltz said.
Upon closer inspection, it probably wasn’t a place of anger that helped Kelly, 51, confront this beast. And truth be told, he only played hockey through high school (though he had college scholarship offers). He instead was able to handle it by finding of a place of contentment.
He and his wife, Carol, are empty-nesters now, allowing her to join him on the road. He says they’re still best friends, still in love and having a blast with their travels. And he’s playing well. He’s won three times in the past 11 months on the PGA Tour Champions and finished one stroke back last week in Wisconsin.
So, when trouble almost came late in his round Thursday he was able to calmly scramble for pars on 15 and 17 and come in with only a bogey on No. 18 as a blip on his scorecard.
“Every time we guessed, we guessed right,” Kelly said of navigating conditions that left others bewildered. “Today the guesses were right. So there it goes.”