COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO | Jerry Kelly has a secret weapon, and it’s one of the rarest scenarios you will find in any sport.
His coach and brother-in-law, Jim Schuman, is playing this week at the U.S. Senior Open. So unlike nearly every player in the field who is sans instructor while on property, Kelly picked up some valuable lessons during his practice rounds from a fellow competitor – his own coach.
“That helped me tremendously, for him to actually take time out of his prep to help me,” Kelly said. “That’s very selfless of him. And it helped an awful lot. I hit it a heck of a lot better than I hit it last week.”
The results don’t lie. Kelly shot a 4-under 66 in round one, only missing one fairway and nearly going bogey-free if not for a three-putt slip-up on No. 18. He struggled with his ballstriking on the second day but successfully scrambled his way around – a chip-in on No. 18, his ninth hole of the day, got the momentum turned around – and concluded with a 1-under 69.
It has him at 5-under 135 for the tournament, leading Miguel Ángel Jiménez, his playing partner the first two rounds, by one stroke after Friday’s morning wave. Kelly’s former college teammate at the University of Hartford, Tim Petrovic, shot a championship-low, 5-under 65 Friday morning and was two back of Kelly.
Playing with Jiménez has helped Kelly, and it was likely the two would be paired again in the final group Saturday barring an afternoon surge from one of the pursuers.
“When you see guys hit the fairway consistently, you feed off of that,” Kelly said of Jiménez. “And that’s really the key out here is just hitting the fairways. We’re good enough iron players, and they’re tough pins and tough greens, yes. And it’s just accentuated if you don’t hit the fairway.”
Kelly came into the championship with 14 consecutive under-par rounds and has hit more than 77 percent of his fairways on the PGA Tour Champions this season. Much of that is thanks to his swing coach.
Kelly’s relationship with Schuman, a PGA professional who teaches in both Wisconsin and Arizona, goes way back. They were both born in Madison, Wis., and Schuman, an All-American at Florida, actually appeared to be on his way to more competitive success than Kelly.
However, an unfortunate illness changed Schuman’s path.
“When he was playing the best of his life, he ended up with appendicitis and had to miss Q-School and then he had to get a job and things weren’t the same,” Kelly said. “It would have been different if he didn’t have appendicitis. I guarantee you we would be side by side.”
Now they are side by side, only it is usually with Schuman the teacher imparting advice to Kelly.
So far this week, it has worked out perfectly.