BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS | When it was all over and the emotion of a lifetime imagining himself as a part of New England sports lore began to seep out, Keegan Bradley looked at the crowded grandstand behind The Country Club’s 18th green, pointed to the cheering fans and tapped his heart.
Bradley hadn’t won – he started the final round two strokes behind and finished T7, five behind champion Matt Fitzpatrick – but he had memories that will remain like a trophy.
He began the week by throwing out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game in Fenway Park and ended it on an emotional cloud.
“What a week. I had the best time,” said Bradley, who was born in Vermont but wears his Boston sports pride like a birthmark.
“I got to feel what it feels like to play in Fenway, to play in the Garden, to play in Gillette Stadium. I felt like a Boston player there. That was a moment I'll never forget the rest of my life."
Until a tie for second at the Wells Fargo Championship last month, Bradley wasn’t sure whether he would qualify for the U.S. Open that he most wanted to play. Twenty-three years earlier, Bradley and his father were there to see the United States’ remarkable Ryder Cup comeback victory, a memory he was reminded of every time he saw a leaning tree behind the 18th green where he and his father had been.
Playing the 18th hole on Saturday, Bradley received a standing ovation from the fans.
“I got to feel what it feels like to play in Fenway, to play in the Garden, to play in Gillette Stadium. I felt like a Boston player there. That was a moment I'll never forget the rest of my life,” said the 36-year-old Bradley, whose four victories on the PGA Tour include the 2011 PGA Championship.
When the final round began Sunday, Bradley was close enough to think about winning. He bogeyed the first three holes to fall off the pace, but Bradley didn’t let his score define his experience.
On the 12th tee, Bradley told his caddie, Scott Vail, that he needed to soak it in as they played the final holes.
“I may never really get this opportunity again, and I did that,” Bradley said.
Bradley loved everything about it, especially the setting.
“The Country Club is spectacular. I absolutely loved it. It's my favorite U.S. Open venue I've ever played. Any time you get to play a tournament in Boston, it's electric. The fans are the best,” Bradley said.
“Man, I'll remember that the rest of my life. It was really special. I'm happy that my family was here to see that, and it was just amazing.”
Ron Green Jr.