A career renaissance that has gone largely unnoticed now carries an extra element of gravitas after Queenslander Brad Kennedy secured the 2020/2021 ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
The outbreak of the coronavirus in early 2020 caused significant disruptions to the Australasian tournament schedule but a run of six events in the space of eight weeks ensured the Order of Merit was completed and Kennedy could be pronounced its champion.
Winner of the New Zealand Open in March last year – the final event before the temporary suspension of the season – Kennedy added the inaugural event of The Players Series at Rosebud Country Club to his tally of season victories to go with two top-fives and a tie for seventh at last week’s Golf Challenge NSW Open at Concord Golf Club.
Unable to be caught when the NSW Open commenced, Kennedy finished almost $50,000 clear of ISPS HANDA Vic Open champion Min Woo Lee with 2019 Order of Merit winner Ryan Fox rounding out the top three.
The Order of Merit crown brings with it some tangible rewards – a European Tour card, starts at The Open Championship and two World Golf Championship events – yet the 46-year-old is taking quiet satisfaction as to what this latest achievement represents.
After spending more than a decade chasing his breakthrough win as a professional, Kennedy has accrued eight tournament wins in the past 10 years, rising to as high as No.100 in the world on the back of his second NZ Open win last year.
It is reward not only for an incredibly consistent season on his home tour but for the 20 years of patience and perseverance that it has taken to realise his full potential in the twilight years of his career.
“Sometimes as a player you go unnoticed and I’ve felt that a fair bit to be honest,” Kennedy admitted.
“I don’t really care what anyone thinks about me or what anyone says, I just go out and do my thing. I don’t need to be out there promoting myself or doing things that aren’t me. I just let my clubs do the talking.
“It’s definitely gratifying that I’ve been able to achieve that and maybe prove things to some people… but that’s not what I’m about. I’m just trying to be as good a player as I can and put myself under those pressures every week and see what I’m capable of.
“In a few years’ time I’ll probably look back and see it as a great achievement and shows consistency throughout the year but right now there are so many things going on that it’s hard to try and reflect.
“All I’m trying to do is move forward and look at opportunity and where you can continue to play because I definitely don’t have much time left.”
A father of two girls, Kennedy’s first priority is to return to Japan as soon as possible and secure his status on the Japan Golf Tour for the 2022 season but he and other Aussies and Kiwis are waiting to be cleared to apply for a visa into Japan.
“And now that Brisbane is about to go into lockdown if I don’t get the go ahead to go to the embassy today (Monday) I won’t be able to apply until Friday at the earliest,” Kennedy explained.
Like Australia, Japan still requires international visitors to quarantine for two weeks. Players from Korea were recently given the all clear to enter the country and are currently going through that 14-day isolation ahead of the first event of the year, the Token Homemate Cup starting April 15.
It’s the first of 25 events that the Japan Golf Tour hopes to stage in 2021 and with status on the Asian Tour and a card in the mail from the European Tour, Kennedy is in a position he could only have dreamed of as a rookie pro back in 1994.
“It’s a real juggling act as to what I do at the moment,” Kennedy conceded.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great problem to have, but it’s also a difficult problem to make decisions on.
“I don’t really know what use I’ll get from it this year given all the travel restrictions.
“I don’t know where else I’m going to be able to go this year and with the European Tour exemption I don’t even know when that starts.
“The opportunity is what you’re always after in any career so to have opportunity is great but then after that you’ve got to decide what’s best.
“For me at the moment I need to get myself focused on Japan for the end of this year and keep myself exempt up there.”
Two years ago Kennedy and renowned performance coach Dave Alred sat down and designed a plan to maximise his final years in the game. Such has been the successful execution of that plan that Kennedy is likely to play on until close to his 50th birthday in 2024.
“I sat down with Dave at the start of 2019 and told him that I had two years left and I was finished and he made me really accountable for that fact,” added Kennedy, who played his first PGA TOUR event at the ZOZO Championship last November and the WGC-Workday Championship in February.
“He told me I had 48 tournaments left until I finished my career and that really made me change my mindset and attitude about every event that I go to now.
“For me now, every tournament has a real purpose.
“I’m still trying to achieve things that I think I can and that is pushing me and getting me to play the way that I’m playing.
“I was hoping to wind down last year so to have these exemptions now including the Asian Tour exemption, it’s making it difficult to stop playing.
“At the same time within myself I need to know when enough is enough and it’s time to move on.”
Congratulations to all of the players who have secured a card for next season on the PGA Tour of Australasia ⛳️— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) March 31, 2021
Take a look at the final Order of Merit for 2020/21 here 👉 https://t.co/wztPSqAIUE#PGATA #PGAProud pic.twitter.com/0i1smvI1HH
1. Brad Kennedy $302,480
2. Min Woo Lee $253,327
3. Ryan Fox $168,882
4. Lucas Herbert $162,841
5. Nick Flanagan $116,709
6. Travis Smyth $95,519
7. Marcus Fraser $89,499
8. Bryden Macpherson $82,795
9. Michael Hendry $81,549
10. Anthony Quayle $59,877