By TOM YANTZ, email@example.com
The Hartford Courant
9:57 AM PDT, June 17, 2012
Every time Keegan Bradley puts his visor on and tees it up, he has a smile within because he has a secret weapon.
He's a native of the land of maple sugar, UConn, Down East and Fenway Park.
He's a New Englander.
"Growing up in New England we only had a few months to play," the defending PGA Championship winner said in a telephone interview. "No one thought we could compete with the players from the South and West who play all year.
"It has always been a chip on my shoulder. I use it as a secret weapon — my attitude."
Bradley burst onto the PGA Tour last year when he was named rookie of the year. In addition to winning the PGA Championship, he triumphed in the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Complacency was never an option for this year. "I'm hungrier now more than ever," he said. "Last year was great, but it was last year. There's so much more I can prove and do: Ryder Cup stuff, majors."
Bradley displayed that drive in the PGA Championship. He was five shots off the lead after making a triple bogey at the 15th hole. But he responded with two birdies and a par to tie Jason Dufner. Then Bradley beat him in a three-hole playoff.
"I'm a competitor, always have been," Bradley said.
Bradley, 26, was born in Woodstock, Vt., and soon was on skis. He became a very good skier and was competitive on a national level. But when he was 12, he was on the top of a slope in Killington, Vt. The weather was cold and nasty.
He decided to store away the skis and concentrate on a sport that he really enjoyed: golf.
The Bradley family moved and he attended Hopkinton High School in Massachusetts. From there the tall, thin man went to St. John's University.
Bradley's roommate his last two years was Mike Ballo Jr. of Stamford.
"Keegan hits it long, but when he needs it he has a second gear and can hit it 330 yards or more," Ballo Jr.
Ballo Jr. and Bradley remain good friends, despite their allegiances to their favorite teams.
Ballo Jr. says he's a "die-hard New York Giants fan," while Bradley is an unabashed fan of the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics.
"We've kind of owned him the last two Super Bowls in which the Giants beat the Pats," Ballo Jr. laughed.
Bradley said, "Sure, Mike is there when things are going well, but he's a fair-weather New York fan."
Whether his team wins or loses, Bradley usually wears a Red Sox hat away from the golf course.
"On the road if any of my teams are playing, I'll try to get to their games," he said. "Bruins, Celtics, the Sox, yeah I'm there when I can."
Bradley says it's sometimes difficult to wind down after playing in a tournament. "It's a hard part for me picking out my schedule," he said. "It's a really hard time for me to take days off. Even if I'm not playing in an event, I'm at the course for two hours."
That's usually at home in Jupiter, Fla., or in the surrounding area. He, Ballo, Evan Beirne from Milford and St. John's, pro Jaime Lovemark, Hopkinton friend Jon Curran and pro Luke List live in Jupiter.
"The St. John's group and all of us are tight," Ballo said.
Ballo says he'll be at the Travelers Championship to caddie for Lovemark and to catch up with his former roomie.
The Travelers Championship will be Bradley's 17th event of the year. He shot a 65 in the second round last year in his first visit to TPC River Highlands and finished in a tie for 63rd. But less than two months later, he won the PGA Championship.
This season he tied for second in the Northern Trust Open, tied for fourth in the Shell Houston Open and tied for eighth in the World Golf Cadillac Championship. He has earned $1,710,477 and ranks eighth on the U.S. Ryder Cup point list.
"I felt I've had a very good season so far in terms of my goal of being in contention more often," he said. "I've done that especially earlier in the year."
Bradley would love to add a tournament title from New England Sunday.
"Coming home to New England is one of the most fun things in my life," he said. "I don't play in many pro events, Travelers andDeutsche Bank [Championshipat TPC Boston], here. I love being back. These are my roots. I'll always be a New Englander."
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant