It took just six swings on the range at Sanctuary Cove last Friday for Brad Kennedy to rediscover the thrill of a perfectly struck golf ball.
As the world watched Tiger Woods take the tentative first steps towards a return to tournament golf, Kennedy has also been undertaking a three-month process of rebuilding his body in the hope of one more full season in 2022.
The reigning PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit champion, Kennedy is realistic about his prospects of starting strongly at this week’s Victorian PGA Championship at a venue where he has returned only middling results.
On the verge of retiring from professional golf after his win at the 2020 New Zealand Open, the past 18 months has been a period of highly fluctuating emotions for the Queenslander.
Invitations to play PGA Tour events, WGCs and Major championship exemptions have been offset by eight weeks spent in hotel quarantine, weeks that not only took a toll on his 47-year-old body but pushed him towards periods of mental despair.
It’s a sacrifice he is no longer willing to make and Kennedy will use the PGA Tour of Australasia season as a barometer of exactly how long he wants to keep playing.
“I really hope that I can get one more season this year with a full schedule. After that it’s going to be a wait and see game as to how much I still want it,” says Kennedy, who is eyeing off Asian Tour appearances in Singapore and Saudi Arabia alongside the Aussie events.
“How much do I still want to push myself and take another step to really push those boundaries of what I want to do and what I can do?”
A five-month stint overseas that involved a stint on the Japan Golf Tour, starts in both the US Open and Open Championship and culminating with the WGC–Fed Ex St Jude Invitational in Memphis in August took its toll.
As a result, Kennedy didn’t touch a club between returning to Australia and last Friday, instead spending three months with his wife and two daughters and giving the body the base it needs to allow his natural golf instincts to return.
“After spending a few months off the golf course, it just allows your brain to get back to some natural feelings again,” says Kennedy, who won the TPS Victoria event at Rosebud first up after a spell last January.
“If you’re playing a lot, you get really bogged down and sometimes your body stiffens up and it just gets into a bit of a no man’s land.
“If I take some time away, I’m able to get back and allow the body to start to swing naturally again.
“It’s quite interesting how, when you don’t play as much, you flush one exactly how you want on the range. It gives you that bit of fuel and a bit of excitement to know that, wow, the body’s feeling good.
“When you get on the putting green or chipping green you get that natural feel in your hands again. You’re free-wheeling it a lot more. You’re not having to delve into your swing and analyse everything. You’re just out there playing golf again.
“For me, that brings in the unknown, and the unknown is always exciting because you’re always on that little bit of an edge to see how it’s going to feel, whether it’s going to work.
“For me, the time away is just as important as the time I spend working on my game.”
Prior to picking the golf clubs back up again Kennedy’s training regime consisted of riding the bike, paddling the surf ski and time in the gym, a significant change from his previous program which also helped to rejuvenate his training.
As a host of youngsters such as Jed Morgan, Blake Windred, Elvis Smylie, Louis Dobbelaar and Jack Thompson begin to make their way as professionals, Kennedy urged them to put in the necessary preparation and to stay true to what works best for them as an individual.
“It’s really important when you are young to continue to be yourself. You have to understand how you like to practise, how you like to train, how you like to travel and to try to keep that the same,” says Kennedy.
“You don’t have to turn pro and change yourself into a whole new person.
“You’ve got to just give yourself that time to develop your own way to prepare for tournaments.
“It’s a profession now so you’ve got to take ownership of being your own business and really taking charge of everything that you do in preparation that will define the type of result that can be created.
“That’s where preparation is key rather than talent, because then your preparation is affecting what you can and can’t do.”
The 2021 Victorian PGA Championship at Moonah Links Resort represents the start of the 2021-2022 PGA Tour of Australasia season. Play begins on Thursday morning and the final two rounds will be broadcast live on Fox Sports and Kayo.