Inspired by caddie, Bobby O'Brien plays himself into contention at PPC

Bobby O'Brien
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
Bobby O'Brien is playing inspired golf this week. His caddie, Brad Hudson, is battling Stage 3 cancer. The team has a chance to win the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday.
By T.J. Auclair
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Published: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 | 9:35 p.m.

SUNRIVER, Oregon -- It's not easy to qualify for the PGA Professional Championship.

It's a significant accomplishment for any of the 312 players who earned a spot in this year's field at Sunriver Resort.

But not one of those players had it as tough as Brad Hudson, the man looping for Bobby O'Brien.

With Hudson's help, O'Brien fired a 3-under 69 in Tuesday's third round at Crosswater. At 2-under 213 through 54 holes, O'Brien will very much be a factor on Wednesday in the final round of his PPC debut.

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But back to Hudson.

He's not just carrying the golf bag; he's also carrying Stage 3 cancer.

"I was diagnosed with cancer in February of last year," said Hudson. "I went through chemo treatments. I was considered cancer-free going back into July of last year. Unfortunately, some test results right around Christmas revealed that the cancer returned. It was Stage 3. So, I went through two stem-cell transplants along with high-dose chemo in March and April. I was in the hospital for a few months."

Hudson was discharged from the hospital at the beginning of May.

And do you know what he did immediately after getting out?

He began intense PT and worked hard with a trainer every day with one thing circled on his calendar: The PGA Professional Championship.

"I worked every day just so I could be here with Bobby," he said. "It was six weeks of trials and tribulation to be on the bag for him this week. To be on the bag here for him for the whole week is just a blessing."

Maybe even a miracle.

Hudson and O'Brien go way back. They competed against each other as junior golfers where, "Bobby obviously won his fair share," Hudson said, but the friendship has really evolved over the last 4-5 years. The families are close and their children are around the same age.

When asked about his play this week -- impressive stuff for a PPC debut -- O'Brien didn't hesitate for a second to shed the praise on his bagman.

"Honestly, I didn't really have any expectations coming into this week," said O'Brien, a 38-year-old PGA Assistant Professional at Chicksaw Country Club in Memphis, Tenn. And then he got a lump in his throat and his eyes welled up. "My caddie Brad is my inspiration. He's battling cancer and trying to get through that and... Man, I can barley even talk about it. He's pulling me through it. It's awesome."

Awesome, indeed.

"I guess you could say I'm playing inspired golf out here," O'Brien said. "What I'm facing this week is nothing compared to what Brad's going through."

Tuesday's 69 was O'Brien's second consecutive sub-par effort this week. He was inside the top-10 with 18 holes to play. The top 20 finishers earn a spot in the 2017 PGA Championship this August.

"It was probably the most difficult conditions we've had all week today," O'Brien said. "The pins were -- some were tough, some were fair. For the most part, the winds have been tricky. Sometimes they lay down and sometimes they gust. It keeps you on your toes and you just need to hit solid shots. I tried all day not to get ahead of myself and thinking about what can come along with a solid round tomorrow. It's going to be even harder not to think ahead tomorrow."

But that's why he has Hudson along for the ride.

"I'm going to keep him on point tomorrow," Hudson said, confidently. "That's all there is to it. Make sure we get some good club selections and play smart golf the way we did today. Hopefully some putts will drop."

Whether the putts drop or not, there's no doubt some tears will drop once these two great friends finish their 72 holes together. 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.