If you are a regular on the Harbor Club golf course, then you probably know our Head Golf Professional, Keith Kelly. What you may not know is his journey to golf or what drew him here to Harbor Club. We chatted with Keith recently to learn his story, including several of his admirable accomplishments, compelling experiences, pro golf tips, and more.
Q: Can you provide a brief biography?
A: I grew up in Abingdon. VA and went to Siena College in upstate New York. I majored in marketing and management and was an Academic All-American there. I worked at Wolferts Roost and Marco Island golf courses for a while, but after a few years, I grew tired of moving back and forth between the two. After graduation, I moved to North Carolina and worked at Emerald Golf Course in New Bern where I was the Head Golf Professional. After about two years, I moved on to Cypress Landing in Chocowinity, North Carolina where I was the Head Golf Pro and General Manager of the course. During my stint there I received my Class A as a PGA professional (that was in 2002.) After about five years at Cypress Landing, I went to work at Maccripine Country Club in Pinetops for a few years, then went on to Riverbend Country Club in New Bern. I joined the team at Harbor Club as Head Golf Pro back in June of 2012, and I love it.”
Q: When did you start golfing and who introduced you to the game?
A: My dad was a caddy back in the day, so he introduced me to the game at age five. I had a 5-iron, a 7-iron, and a putter at that young age. When I turned 10, I got my first full set of golf clubs. It helped that I grew up next to a golf course back when we lived in Virginia. By the time I turned 13, I was playing in the men’s events at that course.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job as Head Golf Pro, and why?
A: Teaching! I love being able to help people understand the game better so that they can play it better. Beyond teaching, I also enjoy the marketing side of the position, as well as the buying and selling of great products and inventory for our pro shop here at Harbor Club.
Q: Can you share some of your proudest golf accomplishments?
A: Yes -- I was thrilled that I got into the semi-finals in the Northeastern New York PGA Match Play back when I was still living in upstate New York. But right after moving to North Carolina I ended up qualifying for the North Carolina Open. It was my first major tournament. I’m proud to say that I was only three strokes behind in the last nine holes and I ended up finishing in the top 10. I was very proud of that accomplishment.
Q: What is your favorite club in your bag and why?
A: My putter. A putter is a club that is useful in that it can change the scoring of the game very quickly. But only if you are good at putting.
Q: Is there a course on your bucket list that you’ve not played yet? ...and if so why do you want to play there?
A: Augusta National, of course. I love the amazing history of the place. When I was much younger and worked at Marco Island, I was lucky enough to get to know Gene Sarazen. I got to hear his stories about Augusta National -- how beautiful it was and how it was manicured to perfection. To me, it’s the epitome of a perfect golf course. I think every golfer, myself included, would want to experience that at least once in their lives.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the best advantages of being a Harbor Club member specifically when it comes to golf?
A: What’s fantastic about our course is that you can play every day and never get bored. Players find they have to use a different club on every hole. What’s more, they can play holes in many different, strategic ways. It keeps the game interesting even if played on a regular basis. Even better, our course is always in great shape, and it’s playable year round. There’s consistently a good pace of play, and you can never have a bad roll on our greens.
Q: What tips can you share about playing golf at Harbor Club during Masters Week?
A: The nice thing about playing here compared to other courses in the area is the price. Harbor Club offers an incredible value during Masters Week. You’re playing a world class course for a very reasonable price. Plus we do demo days during that week with companies like Calloway and Cobra. There’s a lot of fun stuff to do during that notable week.
Q: If you could change one aspect, rule, or thing about golf, what would it be and why?
A: I would like to change the way we pace through the game. In fact, the USGA just changed the rules to try to increase the pace of play, so players aren’t on the course for five hours at a time.
Q: If you could play a round of golf with any golfer, past or present, who would it be?
A: There are several. Jack Nicklaus because I grew up watching him play. Gene Sarazen because I got to know him but never got a chance to play with him. I regret that. Tiger Woods too. I met him and would love to play a round with him. Last but not least, Arnold Palmer. I would like to have played with him just because of his character and the fact that he’s a tremendous ambassador of the game.
Q: Can you share one of your most exciting golf memory?
A: As an employee at Marco Island, I ended up being the first to play in one of Gene Sarazen’s birthday tournaments. There are always a lot of popular TV and golf celebrities playing in it, so I was nervous. At one point in the match, everyone in my group ended up hitting their shots in the water, but when I took my shot, I got the ball six feet from the hole! It was both an exhilarating and highly memorable moment for me.
Q: What is your best pro tip that you like to share with fellow golfers?
A: Use your lower body to turn when hitting the ball. Most people don’t do this. To make up for it, they use too much upper body. As a result, they aren’t using all their power. Wrists move a lot of different ways. Hips, not so much.
Q: What is your favorite hole at Harbor Club and why?
A: I would have to say #7 because of the excellent view and more importantly, the risk-reward factor. If you don’t hit a great shot, you could end up in the water. If you hit a good shot, then you can actually get a two on the hole. If you hit a bad shot, you can get a five or six.
Q: Is there anything you want to add before we conclude?
A: Yes. I’d like to say that the one thing that makes Harbor Club awesome is the people. It’s a wonderful community where everyone is very interactive. Residents, employees, members -- everyone here is fantastic. As employees, we take a lot of pride in our community and in what we do. We love making everyone happy when they visit, and it shows.
Curious to meet Keith and experience Harbor Club for yourself? Book your tee time today.