Kelly left the course Friday afternoon at 5-over 145. He wasn’t holding out hope to play on the weekend, but he did Saturday, firing a solid 72 on the 7,637-yard layout for a 7-over 217 total.

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UNIVERSITY PLACE — Troy Kelly and 13 other pros picked up a new best friend this week during the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

Nick Hardy, a 19-year-old who just finished his freshman year at Illinois, could have laughed his way to the bank, or at least to the nicest restaurant in town, if he wasn’t so worried about NCAA regulations.

 

On Friday, Kelly actually was along the fence above the ninth hole when Hardy missed a 26-foot par putt to close his second round, enabling 14 pros at 5 over to make the cut and play Saturday and Sunday.

“I was thinking, ‘Gawd, I wish I could go down and say (to Hardy), ‘Hey, I’ll pay you to make bogey; you’re going to play anyway.’ I just wanted to get in,” Kelly said.

Kelly left the course Friday afternoon at 5-over 145. He wasn’t holding out hope to play on the weekend, which he did Saturday, firing a solid 72 on the 7,637-yard layout for a 7-over 217 total.

“When I left I was obviously really disappointed,” said the former University of Washington player who grew up in Silverdale and lives in Steilacoom. “I went home, and we started looking a little bit and it was kind of changing.”

As the evening wore on, Kelly returned to Chambers Bay to attend a function in the clubhouse area. And the leaderboard was showing his odds of making the cut were improving. Then it came down to Hardy having to make bogey on the ninth hole.

“I was having a couple of beers up there with the guys, and I was thinking, ‘Well, I’ll go watch,’ so I ran up to the fence,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s brother, Ryan, is serving as his caddie this week and called Troy as Hardy’s round was finishing after 9 p.m. Friday and asked him where he was.

“‘I’m watching him come down 9 now, this is torture,’” Troy said he told his brother. “And he said it was torture watching it on his phone.”

It was particularly difficult for Troy to watch, because golfers tend to never want to root against a competitor.

“I just wanted to play again,” Troy said. “I was having so much fun the first two days with having all my buddies out here and all the people here supporting me, it was great.”

Come Saturday morning, Hardy was the hero on the range.

“They just joked about it, and their caddies joked about it with me in the locker room, too, so it was fun,” Hardy said.

“They were joking around with me, just saying, ‘I’ll buy you dinner.’ I’m like, ‘No, that’s against NCAA rules.’ ”

For a professional such as Kelly, making the cut means probably a minimum of a $20,000 paycheck. And with his solid round, Kelly moved up the leaderboard and closer to a bigger payday.

One nice par came on the 372-yard, par-4 16th. He pushed his drive into the right bunker and came up 43 yards short of the hole. His delicate pitch-and-run grabbed the tricky slope perfectly for an easy par save to the delight of the large crowd that gave him a roar.

“There was a lot of support out there,” he said. “Everybody was cheering and yelling my name. It’s just different to have all that. Half the places I go people are like, ‘Who is that guy.’ Everybody knowing me around here has been so fun.”

Notes

Cheng-Tsung Pan, the Washington graduate playing his first pro event, slipped to a 76 with seven bogeys and one birdie. He’s at 9-over 219.

“Everything is harder, and I didn’t play the way I wanted and I made a couple of dumb mistakes,” Pan said.