At 51, Jerry Kelly is playing some of the best golf of his professional career — proof that, for some, life after 50 is as exciting as ever.
Kelly is brushing off the adage “over the hill” with two victories in his first season on the PGA TOUR Champions in 2017. It’s an exciting transformation for Kelly, who prior to last season hadn’t won a PGA TOUR event since 2009.
Kelly went pro in 1989 and qualified for the Champions Tour upon turning 50 on Nov. 23, 2016. But he struggled in those first few months. “I thought I had an advantage and I was going to tear it up right away. That was not the case. The competition is incredibly solid. The scores these guys are shooting, it shocked me right out of the gate.”
Kelly knew he had to change something to compete with the best players over 50 in the world.
“It was in response to me getting crushed out there in the first two-and-a-half, three months. Having it handed to me early was the best thing that could have happened to me, even though I didn’t like it,” he explains. “It just makes you step up your game. It’s either step up your game or you’re going to get run over.”
Kelly’s performance drastically improved with a few simple changes, including changing out his putter, driver, and shoes, and working out consistently. His wife, Carol, also started traveling full-time with him again after their son, Cooper, started college at the University of Colorado in August.
“She came out with me for the first time and I won that week,” Jerry explains, recalling his win at the Boeing Classic. He tied for sixth place a week later at the Shaw Charity Classic, and over the next three months, earned another win and three top-10 finishes. Kelly was also recently announced as Rookie of the Year for the PGA TOUR Champions.
To add to Kelly’s stellar year, he nabbed a new sponsor — Exact Sciences, creator of a non-invasive colorectal cancer screening test called Cologuard, the first and only stool-DNA test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Exact Sciences announced in early November that it signed a three-year agreement as the title sponsor of the PGA TOUR Champions’ Cologuard Classic beginning this year.
It’s an ideal partnership for Kelly.
Jerry Kelly says he’s proud to partner with Cologuard and educate others on the importance of screening for colorectal cancer. (Photo: Mike Centioli)
“My wife is a cancer survivor,” he says. “Everybody that we know has been touched by cancer in some way. But [the partnership with Exact Sciences] doesn’t feel like a sponsorship. It feels like an opportunity to make more people aware [of colorectal cancer] and get them tested.”
Kelly says his friends and family were “shocked” to learn that colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States.
“It shouldn’t be ignored,” he says. “I can’t believe it’s not a priority for everyone. It shocks me that people think, ‘I’m healthy. I’m in shape. It’s not going to affect me.’ Cancer does not discriminate.”
Cologuard is meant for people 50 years and older, and at average risk for colorectal cancer. So when Kelly turned 50, he screened with it — and loved that it wasn’t disruptive to his busy schedule. To better understand if Cologuard is right for you and understand all your options, download this discussion guide to help you talk to your healthcare provider.
“The big thing for me is preparation. And it doesn’t matter where you are. [The test] comes to you and you send it back to them,” he says. “As a professional golfer, I can’t easily take the time it takes to prep for a colonoscopy and then goes in and have the procedure. There was no prep. I really appreciate the noninvasive nature of it. Those are the most important traits for me. I believe the ease should lighten the burden on people.”
Cologuard was approved by the FDA in August 2014 and results from Exact Sciences' perspective 90-site, point-in-time, a 10,000-patient pivotal trial was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2014. Cologuard is included in the American Cancer Society's (2014) colorectal cancer screening guidelines and the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2016) and National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2016). Cologuard is indicated to screen adults of either sex, 50 years or older, who are at average risk for colorectal cancer. Cologuard is not for everyone and is not a replacement for diagnostic colonoscopy or surveillance colonoscopy in high-risk individuals. False positives and false negatives do occur. Any positive test result should be followed by a diagnostic colonoscopy. Following a negative result, patients should continue participating in a screening program at an interval and with a method appropriate for the individual patient. Cologuard performance when used for repeat testing has not been evaluated or established. For more information about Cologuard, visit www.cologuardtest.com. Rx Only.
Courtesy: USA Today