Matt Kelly has caddied in dozens of majors and now the last four Presidents Cups for his player of 12 years, Marc Leishman.
But nothing can hold a candle to this home game this week at Royal Melbourne, only three short hours from their hometown in Warrnambool, Victoria.
Upwards of 200 friends and members from Warrnambool will be attending this week at Royal Melbourne. Apparently, they’re heading to Australia’s famous golf course literally in busloads.
“They never, let alone, are able to see Marc play, but the best players in the world are playing as well (including Tiger Woods), so it is going to be amazing for them,” Kelly said. “To see Marc compete against those guys, a three hours’ drive from your hometown, where you grew up, he’ll get a lot of support out there for sure.”
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Kelly should as well. He spent much of his youth playing golf in Warrnambool and met Leishman when they were both teenagers.
Royal Melbourne’s conditions should be dry during this present Australian summer, an important factor according to Kelly.
“It’s supposed to be firm, fast and we should be landing shots 10-15 yards short of the green and needing to bounce them on,” Kelly said. “It’s our best golf course down here, so hopefully they show it off well. It doesn’t always look as pretty as some of the ones we play in the States, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a hard, Sandbelt soil that plays firm and fast with yellowy greens.”
The Aussie native’s home country has been waiting for this world stage event for a handful of years since the last Presidents Cup in 2011.
“Hopefully the guys really enjoy it, the golf’s good, and I’m sure it’ll be on full display. It’ll be an awesome week,” Kelly said.
In 2011, Kelly and his best friend among Tour caddies — Joe Skovron (caddie for Rickie Fowler) — had the President Cup week booked down in Australia. But when neither of their players made the respective teams, they improvised. Joe kept his ticket and hung out with Kelly at his parents’ house.
U.S. team caddie Jim ”Bones” Mackay left two tickets at will call for them from the U.S. team’s surplus of friends and family tickets.
“It was bittersweet watching it without being a part of it,” Kelly said.
Having the vantage point of a spectator like everyone else certainly contrasted from what he was used to.
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“Being there at the time in 2011, it was interesting because I’d never seen that course from outside the ropes. Every time I’d been there it was always during tournaments when I was caddying for Marc,” Kelly said.
“It was a really hot and windy day when we went out and watched. It was fun, but it was also frustrating because you know where they should be hitting those shots. You never know how that golf course is going to play in conditions like that.
“It was a fun feeling, but it was also weird to be there and not working. So, I’m excited to be going back to work the event,” he said.
When a veteran looper gets only a spectator’s view of a classic course like Royal Melbourne, does the layout look much different?
“Definitely,” Kelly said. “When you’re playing a round Melbourne can be — in the right conditions — very similar to Augusta. Firm, fast, and only miss it on one side. But from the sides (ropes), the course looks very flat, less intimidating and it’s always easier when you’re on the other side of the ropes. It was definitely different for me.”
Kelly watched much of Saturday’s third day coverage on television that year and then Sunday made the journey to the Australian PGA in Queensland with Skovron and missed all of Sunday’s action. He only discovered the result that evening that the U.S. side had won.
This Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne marks the reuniting of three amigos in Kelly, Skovron, and Sam Pinfold (Cameron Smith’s caddie) even though they’ll be in different team rooms.
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Just 11 years ago, they were a traveling band on the mini-tours.
“It’s all kind of worked out funny. The three of us in 2008 started traveling together,” Kelly said. “I’ve been with Marc for a long time, same with Joe and Rickie Fowler, Sam’s had a few jobs in between, but you just never know if you’re going to get to do one (Presidents Cup) together.”
So now that Presidents Cup week has officially started, one might wonder how friendly the caddies from opposing sides will be with each other.
“It would be so cool to sit down and have a beer (this week) and kind of reminisce a little bit, then try to beat each other come Thursday,” Kelly laughed. “For the three of us to all be in the same event it’ll be so much fun.”
How far Kelly has come
Kelly’s father, Terry, got him into golf at age seven.
“Our friends would play and I’d chip a ball behind them, that’s how it started,” Kelly laughs.
“Then I actually got good enough to look like I knew what I was doing and then I would spend every day after school and school holidays at the golf course. We grew up in a really small town, so they would drop me off there and it was like a built-in babysitter type of thing where I could be entertained on the golf course all day.”
Entertained on the golf course all day. Sound familiar?
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Many of us would welcome the idea, a nice break from the workweek.
Fast-forward to a couple years ago on the Masters Sunday before the week began and it was the 57-year-old Terry who was entertained on the course all day as he followed his son and Leishman during a practice round. And the amicable Leishman let Terry walk inside the ropes with him. Last year, Kelly’s brother got to do the same thing.
“You never know,” Kelly said of whether his dad could have dreamed when they started in golf that they’d eventually get to the famed Augusta National for Matty’s job. “You can’t dream too big I guess. I know he’s proud.”
We’re sure he’ll be beaming with pride this week too as he watches his son loop in a home Presidents Cup.
Anniversary nearly missed
Leishman and Kelly just finished the Australian Open on Sunday and Leishman ended in a tie for 10th at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.
Just five years ago, the duo missed that big event because Kelly got married to his wife, Stephanie.
“We celebrated five years on November 22, a couple weeks ago,” Kelly said.
And how exactly did they celebrate?
“We actually missed it because we flew out of the States from home in Jacksonville on the 21st and we landed on the 23rd,” Kelly laughed. “So we celebrated in the air. We had the two kids and I think we had one glass of wine each on the plane and that was it.”
Tiger at Royal Melbourne
Kelly knows just how fortunate the home Australian fans are to be able to see the reigning Masters champ and playing U.S. captain Tiger Woods at this point in his career.
“It’s great for the tournament. I’m sure the PGA Tour is happy about it, too,” Kelly said. “I thought the same thing about the Japan event in October, the Zozo Championship. If you could pick who you want to contend, you’d have Tiger up there winning the event and Hideki come in second. They couldn’t have scripted it any better. So hopefully we get the best players in the world playing well, but the Internationals sneak a win. That would be a perfectly scripted week for us.
“It’s going to be pretty special to be honest playing in front of the home fans.”