The “boys from Madison” is the way the Associated Press classified Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly, the golfers who are 1-2 after two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open at Notre Dame, Indiana.
It’s totally correct. Stricker and Kelly have known each other since playing in junior tournaments in the 1980s and now both live in Madison.
Their oldest child—Stricker’s Bobbi, and Kelly’s Cooper, both completed their junior years in college this month.
Stricker’s daughters call Kelly “Uncle Jerry.”
And Stricker and Kelly have teamed up to play in the Zurich Classic several times.
The Zurich Classic is the only PGA Tour partners event.
But their on-course demeanors are different.
That was especially true the years they competed in their primes on the PGA Tour.
Stricker has earned his reputation as one of the nicest guys in pro golf, if not all sports. He’s always accommodating and polite.
Kelly has more fire in him, to put it mildly. Interviewing him after a poor round years ago at the now-extinct Greater Milwaukee Open consisted of several short answers before he turned and walked away.
Kelly was an all-city hockey player when he played at Madison East High. He carries that mentality with him on the golf course—a trait he admits has been detrimental at times.
Both admit they take different approaches to the game.
“He was quiet, and I was not,” Kelly told reporters after Friday’s second round. “He was really good, and I was kind of not.”
“I knew Jerry at a young age,” Stricker said, according to press conference transcripts, after his round of 64 Friday. “We were playing amateur events and junior events across Wisconsin. I’ve known Jerry for a long time, been a firend of his and family friends for a long time.”
The two have stepped up and helped the other during lean times.
Kelly was there when Stricker lost his PGA playing card in 2004 and worked to come back.
Kelly recounted the 2006 Houston Open when Stricker began his comeback with a third-place finish.
“That was the first good finish after being in the abyss,” Kelly said. “We were almost both in tears in the locker room. It was cool.”
Stricker’s career took off from there.
“His trajectory went crazy after that, which was really cool to watch,” Kelly said. Ít’s competition and support and friendship.
“I appreciate everything he has done for my game,” Kelly said. “I hope he knows I’ve been there for him.”
Kelly won last week’s American Family Championship at University Ridge over Stricker and Retief Goosen in a playoff.
Kelly ranks second in the PGA Champions Tour money list with $1,013,473 in 11 events. Stricker ranks 10th with $702,327 in seven events.
“It’s good to see him playing well,” Stricker said. “I knew this course would set up for him. “It sets up for a lot of good second shots, and he’s a good iron player, and he’s playing well.”
And today they will be playing together, teeing off at 3:25 p.m., with coverage on FOX Sports 1. Unlike the Zurich Classic, they won’t be teammates.
“Even when we’re teammates, we want to make that putt first,” Kelly said. “We want to be the one. It’s really cool that way.”
They both call Madison home. But Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly aren’t twins.
“We’re so different,” Kelly said.
But they are still the “boys from Madison.”
Tom Miller is a sports writer/page designer for The Gazette. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org