Ryan Kelley is an 18 year old senior at The Woodlands High School. He's been blessed with rugged good looks and a wicked driver. Think Robert Redford in "The Natural", with a 6-iron instead of a bat.
On Thursday I followed him for 6 holes during a practice round. He was preparing for this weekend's HP Boys Championship at Carlton Woods. Kelley was playing with 3 club members, Marijane Smith, Jackie Danner, and Maryllen Blum. Wouldn't you know it, Redford in spikes playing with 3 women, talk about making their day. It wasn't long before I found out what all the fuss was about. On the 585 yard 11th hole, Kelley uncorked a 300-plus yard drive. His second shot was even better, landing about 12 feet from the pin. He missed the eagle putt and settled for a birdie. That was enough to sell me, plus Marijane reminded me that he's cute also.
What was even more impressive than his ball striking was his ability to block out all distractions. He was locked in the entire round. This guy would never need Tiger's caddy Steve Williams for crowd control, he just tunes it all out. Kelley ended his round on the par 4, 507 yard no. 15. After his drive, Carlos the group caddie, asked if I needed anything from Wal-Mart because we had time to go and come back before he could walk up to his ball it was that long. Today was only Kelley's 3rd time playing the Fazio Course and he fired a 68, beating his best score there by 2 shots. Did I mention he also had an incredible up and down from the sand on 14 to save par, and he will be taking all of this talent to Texas A&M in the fall? As for the ladies in the group, they had a blast watching Kelley bomb the ball. They also found out it's a little harder to play with a TV camera following you around.
Kelley is all set to take on an International field of 79 competitors this weekend. The tournament is being played in his backyard, but Kelley is trying hard not to put pressure on himself. He knows he will have lots of family and friends watching, including his grandfather who introduced him to the game when he was in second grade. What a Valentine's Day gift it would be if he could pull off a win.