PGA member Brian Keane's dream comes true tonight on American Ninja Warrior

By Michael R. Abramowitz
Published on

He’s a New Jersey PGA Section member by day…and an “American Ninja Warrior” contestant by night.

Brian Keane’s longtime dream of competing on the hit NBC show, while promoting the game of golf, has come true. In May, he tackled the qualifying course in Philadelphia, set alongside the Delaware River and in front of the Richmond Power Station building, made famous in the science fiction film “12 Monkeys.”

How did he do? We’ll find out tonight at 9 p.m. ET, as Keane, 41, owner of Golf Gaps club replacement in Hackettstown, New Jersey, becomes the first PGA member to appear on the reality show competition – a survival of the fittest on an obstacle course that tests the strength, fitness and agility of the greatest of athletes.

In fact, Keane, a 1997 Penn State PGA Golf Management University program graduate, who also is a PGA Teaching Professional at Crystal Springs in Vernon, New Jersey, faced some stiff competition. His opponents included 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Paul Hamm and Geoff Britten, the first person to conquer the insanely difficult, final American Ninja Warrior course, Mt. Midoriyama.

“Mr. Hamm—I had no idea he was competing,” Keane said with a laugh. “When I saw him, I was like, ‘Wow! You’re a former Olympian.’ And Britten, he has those Popeye forearms. But then I realized, I’m not competing against them. I am competing against the course, just like golf.”

Keane first tried to qualify for the show by submitting an impressive and humorous video in 2015, which featured him ascending a ladder, with his arms hanging underneath, up to the side of a house. In addition, Keane showed his golf instruction skills and that he is a card-carrying PGA member.

“I am a very creative person,” he said. “I like to think outside the box…When I confront obstacles, I look for any way to get something to be accomplished.”

Yet, at first, Keane didn’t get the casting call. So, he resubmitted the video for the 2016 season. He had literally “given up hope,” when three weeks prior to the taping, Keane received a phone call that he was eligible to compete in the Philadelphia qualifier.

“That was my dream, just to get to the course,” explained Keane. “This whole experience was to try different things, to follow my dreams. And as much as mine have [come true] in becoming a PGA Professional and having a family, I do want to really try to send out a message.”

Keane wants to serve as an inspiration for his 10-year old daughter, Courtney, and 4-year old son, Jackson, who was born with one femur shorter than the other and will likely need surgery when he is older. In addition, he wants to use his appearance on the show to spread golf’s appeal.

“I am doing this to a degree to spread interest in the game of golf—to remind people that it is meant to be fun,” Keane adds.

The producers of “American Ninja Warrior” told Keane they selected him because they liked the fact that he is a PGA Professional. Keane believes that gave him an advantage in certain places on the course, especially those that demanded a lot of technique.

Keane put his body through rigorous workouts for more than two years to prepare for the chance to eventually advance to Las Vegas and compete for the $1 million grand prize. He knows the odds of winning are slim, as only one person, Isaac Caldiero, has won it, after beating Britten’s time on the ropes of Mt. Midoriyama last year.

“It’s become a West Coast-East Coast thing. East Coast folks say Britten is the real ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ because he was the first to get to the top of the ropes, and West Coast folks say it’s Caldiero, because he was the first to win.”

Keane estimates he could compete for 10 years, if his body cooperates. Yet, he has a lot to overcome when he sets foot on the epic American Ninja Warrior obstacle course, including a prior ACL tear in his knee and a hamstring pull. Keane realizes he is pushing his body to the limits.

“That’s why it is so nice to go to the golf course.”

Who: Brian Keane, PGA

What: American Ninja Warrior – Philadelphia Qualifier

Where: NBC

When: Monday, June 27, 2016 9P ET/8P CT

More: New Jersey PGA Professional Brian Keane follows his dream and competes against the likes of former Olympic Gold Medalist Paul Hamm and Geoff Britten—the first person to fully ascend the final American Ninja Warrior course, Mt. Midoriyama—as well as several other competitors, in pursuit of the $1 million top prize.