Golf Channel Academy (GCA) lead coach Kelley Brooke hadn’t played tournament golf in nearly 30 years.
“I was working the driving range for 29 straight years,” said Brooke, a former high school individual state champion and All-Big 10 player at the University of Iowa. “I wasn’t going out of my way to play golf.”
That all changed this year when she opened up her second GCA location at Bethpage Black Golf Course on Long Island—site of two U.S. Opens and next May’s PGA Championship—and also took on the head professional job there. One of Golf Digest magazine’s “Top 100 U.S. Public Golf Courses” (No. 9), the Black Course is widely considered one of the most challenging courses in America. In fact, there’s a sign just behind the first tee box that warns recreational golfers about the potential danger—i.e., high scores—that potentially lurk ahead.
It reads: “WARNING! THE BLACK COURSE IS AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT COURSE WHICH WE RECOMMEND ONLY FOR HIGHLY SKILLED GOLFERS.”
Determined to get to know the course better, Brooke started playing it three times per week. Lo and behold her game, specifically her short game, really improved. So much so that she decided to enter the Senior Division of the LPGA Teaching and Club Pro National Championship, Aug. 27-29, at Pinehurst No. 8. She finished eighth, just three spots out of a top-5 finish that would’ve earned her a spot in the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana in October.
Brooke, who turned 50 in April, was in second place after 36 holes. Not bad for someone who hasn’t played in a meaningful tournament since she was a 21-year-old.
“I must’ve read eight books on the mental side of golf in the last year,” said Brooke. “I was also writing and developing some programs of my own on the mental side of things, on how to take your game from the range to the course, and I think that really helped with my own competitive game.”
As for Brooke’s GCA location at Bethpage Golf Course, there are plans to build a new performance center, which includes a short-game area, following the PGA Championship. She also plans to offer more on-course training programs in the future, including a two-day Mental Game Workshop beginning in October. Brooke already gives plenty of two-hour, 9-hole playing lessons, which include instruction on how to warm up properly, how to use a pre-shot routine and visualization to improve your performance on the course, and how to eliminate the “anyways”. She describes the “anyways” as going ahead with the shot “anyways” despite not being physically and mentally prepared to hit the shot.
To book a playing lesson with Brooke or to check out her academy at Bethpage, please visit her website, www.golfchannelacademykelleybrooke.com, or call 516-249-4040.