Rookie Jerry Kelly Wins the Boeing Classic

By Craig Smith

The 13th annual Boeing Classic started and ended with two bests – best flyover by a Boeing jetliner to begin the tournament and best winning score.

The pilot was Mike Bryan, and he made three instead of two low passes over the course in a 787-8. The plane had an Arnold Palmer umbrella painted on its belly as a tribute to the golf giant who died last September. Bryan even added a wing waggle for embellishment.

The golfer presented with the winner’s bomber jacket Sunday was Champions Tour rookie Jerry Kelly, 50. He has full playing eligibility on the PGA Tour but prefers the over-50 tour most weeks.

Kelly shot a three-day total of 197 (65-66-66) to top the previous tournament mark by one stroke.

Other winners on the final day were fans in the Canyon Club on the 14th hole. They got half-price beers whenever someone birdied or eagled the “Canyon Hole.” Thirty-one of the 77 golfers went for the green and the result was one eagle, 12 birdies and a lot of happy customers.

Kelly, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and a member of the President’s Cup team in 2003, is a likeable native of Madison, Wisc. He became the first first-round leader to win the Boeing tournament.

Kelly shared the first-round lead with Mike McKenzie, an Australian who had Tuesday-qualified in a playoff to grab the final spot in the field.

McKenzie, a golfing nomad who had flown in from Fiji, faded into the pack on the weekend.

In the final round, Kelly fell behind and trailed Jerry Smith by a shot with three holes to play. Kelly pulled even with a short birdie putt on No. 16 then took the lead for good by sinking a 15-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th hole.

Hometown favorite Fred Couples had one good round – a 66 on Saturday – and finished tied for 20th at 208.

In addition to the tournament scoring record being set by Kelly, Gene Sauers set a front-nine record with a 30 on Sunday. Overall scoring – 71.13 strokes per round – was the second lowest in the tournament’s history.

What made Kelly’s victory all the more fun was that he got wrong directions to the course for his pro-am day Wednesday. The concierge at his Bellevue hotel gave him directions to the flat and friendly public Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course instead of the Jack Nicklaus-designed The Course at Snoqualmie Ridge.

Kelly ultimately showed up at the private course where a field of 78 that included 12 winners of PGA Tour majors awaited him for the tournament. He could have received better directions if he had asked Dr. Harry Sese, the Bellevue-based “golfing doc” he works with for fitness and flexibility.

This was the first tournament for new tournament director Brian Flajole, a graduate of Juanita High School and WSU. He was pleased with how things went.

“The tournament could not have been better,” Flajole said. “We had great crowds, great weather and a fantastic finish. Certainly, local golf fans loved seeing Freddie Couples compete again, but it was good to see large galleries for newcomers like Jose Maria Olazabal and Miquel Angel Jimenez.”

The European who got the most attention Sunday was defending champion Bernhard Langer, who was celebrating his 60th birthday. He was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” in the clubhouse, on the range, at the first tee and throughout his round.

He shot 65 and finished tied for third with Billy Mayfair at 200.

“Not a bad way to start the 60s – with a 65, right?” said Langer, who failed in his bid to become the first three-time winner of the tournament.

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