Lee Kelly has been the statistical source for her son's golf career for nearly 40 years so when she says Jerry Kelly had 12 career holes-in-one at the start of business Sunday? Well, then he probably had 12 career holes-in one.
The story going around the extended Kelly family Sunday — while Jerry was trying to win his first career PGA Tour Champions major at the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship in Akron, Ohio — was that Jack Kelly owned as many career aces as wife Lee when he died in March of 2018 at age 85. His obituary quoted 12 as the magic number and it came into play Sunday with one swing of Jerry's 5-iron on the 12th hole at Firestone Country Club.
That's where the 53-year-old Madison golfer made his first career ace in competition on the senior circuit, called it a belated birthday present for son Cooper (he turned 22 on Friday) and then boasted on national television that the hole-in-one broke a tie with his mom, an accomplished amateur golfer in her own right. (Lee and Jerry won the 1986 Wisconsin State Mother-Son.)
"That actually got me to 14, I think," Jerry Kelly told reporters Sunday after it — without question — became the most significant ace in family history after boosting him to final-round 69 and a two-stroke victory over Scott Parel.
"Yeah, there's some gray area. We can't figure out if I was one ahead or tied, so I just figure that put me one ahead right there. My mom's got some work to do."
Lee Kelly might have something to say about that. But, hey, when you are the one in the family with the major championship crystal, you get to spin the numbers as you see fit — at least for 24 hours, right?
History will say the unforgettable 5-iron from 177 yards on No. 12 allowed Kelly to enjoy most of the final five holes of his wire-to-wire stroll to victory. He parred the next five holes before finishing with a double-bogey on No. 18.
"It feels great; it really does," Kelly said of his seventh PGA Tour Champions victory and the first since last October when he won the SAS Championship, which means it was also the first time that he has won during the COVID-19 pandemic without being able to feed off the gallery. "I'm just kind of bummed there weren't fans and you could just go crazy. But it was hard to go crazy after doubling the last hole. ... It kind of brought me back down to earth."
Kelly was sky-high after his ace, if for no other reason than its timing.
When Kelly bogeyed the par-4 11th hole, the three-shot cushion he had built after birdies at Nos. 1 and 3 on each side of a 2-hour, 15-minute storm delay had dwindled to one over Parel. The hole-in-one restored the lead to three shots and after Parel bogeyed the par-4 13th hole it had grown to four.
"It was perfect timing after making my first bogey," said Kelly, who also made clutch par-saves at Nos. 8, 10 and 13 in and around his hole-and-one. "I wanted a bounce-back birdie, but definitely a bounce-back eagle was even better. It was just a really clean shot. It was everything that I wanted to do. And when the brain works and then the muscles work and it follows the tune and actually goes in, it's pretty amazing."
Equally amazing are the perks that go with this victory.
In addition to moving up 18 spots to No. 6 in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, Kelly earns a five-year exemption into the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai and a berth in the 2021 Players Championship at TPC-Sawgrass in Florida. Kelly played in the Players Championship 22 times as a regular on the PGA Tour with two top-10 finishes, including a fourth-place showing in 2001 when he played in the final group with eventual winner Tiger Woods.
"It's seriously one of my favorite places on the planet," Kelly said. "I love it. I love playing there. I love the tournament. I hope it's not too cold and rainy. But I like that it's back in March; it's tougher."
It can't be any tougher than coming down from the thrill of a hole-in-one and regaining the focus to close out your first major championship.
"You definitely feel like you're a little bit destined to (win), but you can't let yourself get caught up in that," Kelly said. "You have to absolutely focus. ... I just tried to be a solid golfer as much as I could. I tried to enjoy the time, which I did immensely.
"Even thought it was hard work, ... it was really fun."