Indiana’s Brittany Kelly Takes a Long Road Back to the PGA Professional Championship
By Bob Denney, PGA Historian Emeritus
Brittany Kelly wears a teal wristband with the inscription “BK Strong,” a reminder of an unimaginable 17-month journey and emblematic of her indomitable spirit.
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Kelly, a 32-year-old Assistant PGA Professional at Woodland Country Club in Carmel, Indiana, will make her second appearance in the PGA Professional Championship, April 25-28, at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. She earned a berth in the 312-player field as a member of the 2019 United States Women’s PGA Cup Team.
It has been a life-altering road for Kelly to the PGA Professional’s showcase event.
Diagnosed in January 2020 with Stage 1 Clear Cell ovarian cancer, Kelly has been pointing to the Championship ever since. For Kelly, competing is as much a part of her makeup as it is the best form of treatment.
“I am looking forward to playing. It’s a way to keep my mind off of things a little bit,” she said. “I love to stay busy. I have been trying to be smart about getting things done on the days that I’m not too fatigued.”
With the pandemic forcing the cancellation of last summer’s PGA Professional Championship in Austin, Texas, Kelly caught another break. With CDC safety protocols applied, players this year will ride in golf carts and are not required to walk with a caddie.
“A golf cart is probably the only way I can play. I’ll need that,” said Kelly.
“This is my chance to compete again. It will not be the same. The swing won’t be the same nor my stamina level the same. It’s my opportunity to play the game of golf at the highest level against the best in the business.”
Over the past 17 months, Kelly has undergone multiple surgeries, scans, radiation treatment and what she described as “four different kinds of chemotherapy.” She said she is making an appointment after the Championship to visit MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, as there is lingering cancer in her lymph nodes.
Talking about her treatment to Golf Channel prior to last year’s Championship cancellation, she said,“I approached it as I would a golf tournament. I had an opponent, they set the course and this time it was cancer. I had a game plan and I surrounded myself with good people and a positive attitude. That was what got me through.”
Kelly’s cancer was discovered after she recorded a season of personal milestones.
In 2019, she qualified for her first LPGA major championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, won the Indiana Women’s Open and helped the U.S. win the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup. In addition, she became the first woman to win the Indiana PGA Assistant Professional Championship. In November, at the 2019 National Car Rental PGA Assistant Professional Championship in Florida, she began feeling fatigued.
Kelly shares her story to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. She credits a strong support team -- her home club, her parents, her family and friends.
“Working with Brittany for the past five years, she is the most positive individual you can be around, ” said Woodland Country Club PGA Head Professional Patrick White, “The courage she has, the dedication to the job, you would never know what she is fighting through. She’s all-world, a consummate professional and the definition of a PGA Professional. I am thrilled to have her on my staff.”
“My club and my boss have been so fantastic, even with COVID going on,” said Kelly. “I have been working from home, giving video lessons. Last fall, the club did an event to raise funds for me and our superintendent. They called it ‘The Ribbon.’ They have been so supportive.”
The Ribbon Pro-Member event, hosted last October, raised $30,000, with $15,000 each for Kelly and Superintendent David Riedman, who White said has battled brain and lung cancer. He is currently cancer-free.
“Our Section and members' support during that event was tremendous,” said White. “We are going to do it again this October. Brittany is one of the most determined individuals I’ve ever met. It’s great that she is competing in the PGA Professional Championship. She will give it her all.”
Along with her parents, sister and brother-in-law, Kelly gains strength from her young nieces, ages 4 and 7. “My nieces always make me smile, and they’re at a perfect age where they don’t have a care in the world and they didn’t care when I had no hair,” she said. “They just wanted to play with their Aunt B.
“I’ll continue to trust in God’s great plan and figure out the rest along the way.”