Brian Kelly - The Ohio State University Golf Courses
Head Golf Professional, Class A Member of the PGA
Specializes in: Avid golfers looking to touch-up on their game
Brian has over 22 years of teaching experience and has been a PGA member since March of 2004. Brian was an Assistant Golf Professional at Muirfield Village Golf Club from September 1, 2005-January 31, 2008. In 2010, Brian also had the privilege of competing in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational on the Nationwide Tour.
Brian has developed his communication skills under some of the industry’s most legendary instructors including Jimmy Ballard, Mike Malaska, Jim Flick, Martin Hall and J.R. Ables. Brian has taught a variety of players ranging from beginning junior golfers to PGA and LPGA Professionals. Brian is a Ping club-fitting specialist and thrives on teaching consistent improvement to his students.
How old were you when you got started in golf and what eventually pulled you into becoming a golf professional?
I took up the game at age 11, but I was too stubborn to begin with lessons. My first lessons began at age 13 from Bob Jones, PGA Professional at Minerva Lake Golf Club. Bob Jones inspired me to become a PGA Professional. I had known starting in 8th grade that this was the career path I wanted to take. Bob Jones made being a PGA Professional look cool. He dressed nice, gave lessons, sold merchandise and was a master club repair specialist. I then went under the tutelage of JR Ables, Brian Larson and Rocky Miller at Ables Golf Center. These guys were the stand alone range experts at the time and my game really elevated under their guidance. These guys pushed me towards PGA Membership.
How do you stay current with the latest developments in teaching methods?
I have read, listened to and researched almost every known instructional method or Top Teacher in the industry. When I choose to listen or follow someone, it is generally because they simplify things or explain fundamentals in a basic approach. I believe that the best teachers can observe the ball flight, launch, divot and listen to the sound of the strike and can explain back to the student in the most simple of ways the basic fundamentals needed for improvement. It is still a clubface/path/pivot game and always will be. Technology has its place in the game, but a really competent teacher can give feedback in the simplest of terms that help a student make adjustments on the golf course. It is about getting your student to have more fun and play better, not just swing better.
I also learned a very valuable lesson competing in the 2010 Nationwide Children’s Championship on the Nationwide Tour that under pressure, everything speeds up and the challenge is to slow your mind down. Experienced teachers need to help prepare their students to do just that on the golf course under pressure no matter what the student is preparing for.
What are 2 trends in golf that you’re excited about?
The biggest 2 trends in the golf business in the last 5 years in my opinion have been the topic of ground forces and connection. While many teachers lay claim to the invention of these two trends, they were started more than 50 years ago by Jimmy Ballard. Jimmy Ballard is the pioneer of connection and ground forces. Most every talented player works on these two fundamentals at some point. Most top players are always placing a glove, towel or soft object under their lead arm to establish connection, but have no idea where that fundamental idea came from. You will here many great players doing drills in the gym that help them in their pursuit of utilizing the ground in their golf swing. The truth is that these trends have been around for a long time, but are being marketed to look very cool and new to today’s golfers.
Do you specialize in teaching any facets of the game?
I learned a long time ago from Jim Flick and Mike Malaska and it continued with Jimmy Ballard that you better know how to help the average player get the ball air born and hook if you are going to help them have more fun and ultimately improve. I still enjoy helping the average golfer today in these two areas. The truth is that a player will not get better until they are educated in how the clubface works. The ball only knows what the clubface tells it at the moment of impact. I relate all instruction back to the education of the clubface. I tie in the relationship of clubface/path and body pivot all together to help each student get better.
What sets you apart from other golf professionals?
My passion in golf instruction is helping the average player improve. That is the grass roots of the game. I know many golf professionals want to attach their name to tour professionals based on notoriety and that is fine, but that also demands an unbelievable amount of time and commitment that I do not necessarily have as a Head Professional. I enjoy helping our club members have for more fun by achieving a ball flight or shot pattern that they have never seen before. My passion for helping the average player have more fun is where I set myself apart. I also take great pride in helping my Assistant Professionals improve in the area of golf instruction.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
I am nearing the age of 50. I am looking very forward to moving up and competing in the Senior Division in our local PGA Section. We have some of the best club professionals in our area that have already reached the age of 50, but I am looking forward to that new chapter. I have also learned to have more fun playing golf and overcome the driver yips. I have never been a great sustained player compared to many other PGA Professionals, but I have had enough flashes of brilliance on the golf course while competing that give me some hope that I can still enjoy competing. That is what I am excited about going forward.
What has been your most challenging experience with a student and how did you handle it? How did you overcome it?
The first half of my career was spent teaching golf to juniors. I was in charge of the junior golf program at Ables Golf Center. I was developing some juniors that played very well at the high school level and a few went on to play college golf. One particular junior received some attention from Penn State. Right about that time, his dad informed me that they were going in a different direction with instruction to a more experienced teacher that they thought would really elevate his game at the college level. I took it very personal. It was a good lesson that some things are just out of my control.
I learned as a teacher to help each student the very best that I could with what I knew and the rest was up to them and many times out of my control. I no longer take that personal. I think the challenge in today’s game is to make the learning environment fun! Golf is a game. Games are meant to be fun. Every golf professional needs to remember that. Every student learns a little different. Make sure they enjoy the process.
Do you actively play competitive golf? Any recent bragworthy performances you’d like to share?
I have played competitive golf in the past. As already stated, there have been flashes of brilliance. My favorite story that I tell people happened in the 2010 Nationwide Children’s Championship on the Nationwide Tour. I received a sponsors exemption that year as the PGA Professional of the host club here at The Ohio State Golf Club. During the second round on the 12th hole, I hit my best tee shot maybe ever in my life on the par 5 hole with a slight fade. I was paired with John Chin, college All-American and current Korn Ferry Tour Member. John hits it a long way, but on this particular hole, he pulled his tee shot right (Left-handed golfer). I thought that I finally out drove him on the hole only to walk past my ball and up to his. He then informed me “Brian, your ball is back there.” The tree kicked his ball out into the fairway. I walked back to my ball. It was a distance measuring hole. I had hit my ball 305 yards with a slight fade and John was a good 50 yards past my ball after the tree kicked his ball out. That was my walk of shame. I then hit the best #3 metal of my life from 260 yards away to the middle of the green and two-putted for birdie. John hit a 7 iron short of the green and made bogey. I beat him on that particular hole and I always tell people about the walk of shame.
Is there a highlight from your career in golf that stands out above the rest?
I was playing in an instructional pro-am at New Albany Country Club as part of our Korn Ferry Tour Event that we host in 2014. My first hole of the day was a par 3 that measured 150 yards. My first swing of the day resulted in my first career hole in one. There were 10 people standing around watching when the ball went in. I have never been more excited in my life after a golf shot. My next tee ball on the widest hole of the golf course almost went out of bounds to the right. It barely stayed inbounds on a hole that was 100 yards wide off the tee. The feeling of being so pumped up on adrenaline was incredible, but it took several holes to calm down. The truth is after the first shot, I should have quit and gone to the bar.
Any advice for someone considering pursuing a career as a golf teaching professional?
My best advice is to learn from experienced teachers that have excellent communication skills and are able to teach fundamentals with simple commands. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and learn from others. There are very few new trends, but trends are marketed differently and made to look new and revolutionary. Seek out teachers that have a passion for helping others and have positive energy that make the learning environment fun. Never stop learning. Look for cross-over fundamentals that can be applied to different sports such as baseball, hockey and tennis. You have to find avenues of communication and tailor them to your students. Don’t be afraid to take lessons yourself to get better. Seek teachers out that strike your curiosity and take a lesson from them. You will always learn something and build a network of support in the process.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
I want to reiterate that golf is a game and games are meant to be fun. Have fun playing golf!!!