SJU grad wins PGA Championship

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On the last day of the PGA Championship in Georgia Sunday, St. John’s University graduate Keegan Bradley overcame a five-shot deficit with three holes to go and won in a three-hole playoff to become only the third golfer to capture his first major championship on the first attempt.

Maybe Bradley’s win had something to with his attire: He chose to wear a red polo shirt and white pants — St. John’s’ colors.

“It’s unbelievab­le,” Bradley said Sunday shortly after accomplishing the feat. “It seems like a dream. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up here in the next five minutes and it’s not going to be real.”

The PGA Championship is the fourth of golf’s four majors, which consists of the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship.

Bradley, a rookie on the PGA Tour, won his first event as a pro earlier in the year in Texas at the HP Byron Nelson Invitational and followed it up with a win Sunday during the 93rd PGA Championship.

Bradley’s coach at St. John’s, Frank Darby, said his former player’s big win shows that the Fresh Meadows university has one of the elite college golf programs.

“This is one of those moments that really validates what you’re doing as a coaching staff,” Darby said. “A lot of people have been trying to figure out what we do over here because of Keegan’s success and [fellow St. John’s alumnus] Andrew Svoboda on the Nationwide Tour. This is one thing that proves we’re doing it the right way.”

Mike Ballo Jr., a teammate of Bradley’s at St. John’s, said the accomplishment was a great moment for Bradley “and the whole St. John’s family.

“Keegan deserves every second of winning he gets,” Ballo said.

Bradley is only the third golfer to win his first major championship on his first try, joining Ben Curtis, who won the 2003 British Open, and Francis Ouimet, who was victorious in the 1913 U.S. Open.

When Bradley reached the 15th hole, he was two strokes off the leader, Jason Dufner.

Bradley struggled on the hole, shooting a triple bogey and putting him five strokes behind Dufner with three holes to go.

Bradley birdied the 16th and 17th holes as Dufner struggled, bogeying the 15th, 16th and 17th holes and the two were tied after all 18 holes were played.

In the three-hole playoff, Bradley birdied the 16th hole to get ahead of Dufner after Dufner settled for par on the hole.

Bradley led Dufner by two shots heading into the 17th hole and Dufner collapsed, bogeying the hole.

Dufner then birdied the last hole, but Bradley won the playoff by a stroke.

“When they got to that playoff, it was over,” said Darby. “Keegan had his head up and he had that look about him. I’ve seen him have that look many times before and you just know that he’s focused on winning.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 11:30 am, October 12, 2011
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