GOLD Coaster Brad Kennedy is one of Australian golf’s quiet achievers, the 42 year old now one of the more successful foreigners on the Japan Tour having committed himself to playing there in 2011 and gaining his card to do so through the Japan Tour School in late 2010.
Kennedy had been competing on the Australasian, European, Asian and One Asia Tours previously before deciding to tackle Japan in 2011.
Sydney born, Kennedy moved to the Gold Coast with his family at the age of 8 and played his junior golf out of Surfers Paradise Golf Club before turning professional in 1994.
He completed a traineeship with Coolangatta Tweed heads professional Geoff Parlsow before taking over the top job there when Parslow left to pursue golf course design and other interests.
“I really enjoyed my time at Coolangatta and was offered the chance to stay on after a year in charge in 1997 but I had always wanted to test myself on tour and headed out to try my hand at playing,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy initially played the Australasian and Asian Tours and it was through the Asian Tour and some good results there that led him to the European Tour.
He had finished runner-up at the Malaysian Open in 2003 and did so again in 2004 when a fully-fledged member of the European Tour.
Kennedy based himself in Europe while he plied his trade there in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and in fact he and his wife Narelle, who had caddied for him while playing in Asia earlier, based themselves in Manchester, a decision which on reflection Kennedy realises might have been the wrong one.
“We had friends in Manchester and so from that point of view it was good but it might have been better to base ourselves in Spain or somewhere warmer. When my status ran out at the end of 2005 in Europe I decided to again focus my attention on Asia.”
Kennedy played with commercial success while back on the Asian Tour, his biggest cheque in the game to that point (US$180,000) coming when finishing 3rd behind Adam Scott and Ernie Els at the 2006 Singapore Open.
A shoulder injury in 2007 caused a loss of form, and his status, and he made the decision to play the then emerging OneAsia Tour between 2008 and 2010.
KENNEDY WON THE NZ OPEN IN 2011
Kennedy, though, would become a victim of the politics involved in the rather ugly spat between the Asian and One Asia Tours and when threatened with a fine by the Asian Tour for playing One Asia events. Kennedy had had enough and looked elsewhere.
He, along with three or four other Australians, were each fined over $6,000 by the Asian Tour for playing the OneAsia Tour co-sanctioned Volvo China Open and for Kennedy the writing was on the wall.
“Narelle had often suggested I play in Japan and when the ultimatum was put to me by the Asian Tour and the threat of a fine for carrying out my business was spelt out to me I thought this was a good time to change direction,” he said.
Courtesy of some of his performances on the Australasian Tour in 2010, which had included his first win as a professional at the WA Open, Kennedy was exempt through the first two stages of the Japan Tour School.
He gained enough status to play 14 events in Japan in 2011 and recorded four top tens, including a very important runner-up finish at the Canon Open where his cheque for some $A120,000 allowed him to re-secure full playing rights for 2012.
Japan and Kennedy seemed to be getting along just fine.
“I love playing up there and realised very early in my time there that in order to succeed you had to accept the way things were done there and not try and change the world so to speak,” he said.
“Sure things are done a little differently in some aspects but the golf courses are very good and the greens are amongst some of the best I have played anywhere.
“The tournaments are very well organised and the quality of play there is a lot higher than many might imagine.
“The thing is that the Japanese, with the exception perhaps of the likes of Matsuyama and Ishikawa and one or two others, can play twenty five events a year without having to leave their shores and while they might not necessarily be exposed to the rest of the world on a regular basis the standard of players and play is very high.
KENNEDY IS A TWO TIME WINNER IN JAPAN, INCLUDING THE KANSAI OPEN:
“It is a very easy place to get around and I have found playing there to be one of the most enjoyable tours I have ever played.
“I embraced the culture, in fact so much so that Narelle and the family moved to Tokyo with me for the 2015 season and we just loved living the life up there.
“I felt it was a great opportunity for my two girls to understand another culture and country and allowed me to play without necessarily feeling pressed to head home during every break.”
Kennedy has gone on to win two events in Japan, the Gateway to the Open Mizuno Open in 2012 and the Kansai Open in 2013. His effort at the Mizuno Open would earn him a start at the Open Championship at Royal St Georges that year as indeed had his 5th place finish in in that same event a year earlier as the leading four players not otherwise qualified earn the right to play via the Open Championship using that event as one of their IFQ venues.
“I was probably not ready for it when I played the Open on those occasions and I think that given the opportunity again, I would make a much better fist of it given the experience I now have.”
Kennedy is coached by Sanctuary Cove based Michael Jones and it was Jones’ involvement in his win at the Mizuno Open in 2012 that makes the success the one that he treasures most.
“It was my first win and to have Michael with me was very special,” he said.
“The WA Open win also holds good memories because it was my first ever win and the New Zealand Open in 2011 also because it was obviously a national open.”
Kennedy has also been working with British high performance coach, David Alred, who he met while Alred was in Australia speaking at the PGA of Australia’s Teaching Summit several years ago.
“David has been great for many reasons but perhaps more than anything is that he has been able to get me focusing on the right things in practice and although I am now practising less I am practicing with far greater purpose.”
Alred is known for his role as performance coach of the great English goal kicker Jonny Wilkinson but he also was assisting golfer Luke Donald when that player reached number one in the world.
Despite now being in his early forties, Kennedy is perhaps playing some of his best and most consistent golf and certainly since joining the Japan Tour.
The 2016 season saw him record his best placing on the Japan Tour’s Order of Merit when finishing 11th, earning some A$650,000.
KENNEDY WAS PART OF A THREE WAY PLAYOFF AT THE RECENT NZ OPEN:
It appears Kennedy has found his niche in professional golf, splitting his time between playing around nineteen or twenty events in Japan, three or four events in Australasia and enjoying the lifestyle of the Gold Coast where he enjoys fishing the estuaries and the rivers and the Broadwater of the region and raising his family.
Kennedy’s understated and laid back manner appears to be the perfect fit for the Japan Tour and his success there over the last five years is clear evidence of just that.
And it might just get better yet as his recent runner-up finish at the 2017 ISPS Handa New Zealand Open would suggest.
MAIN PHOTO COURTESY NZ OPEN
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