Brady Calkins capped his high school baseball career at W.F. West, where he went 7-0 with 48 punchouts in 53 innings, by winning the 2A Evergreen Conference MVP and leading the Bearcats in capturing the 2A state title in 2013.
Anyone who didn’t know him at the time would figure this kid is going to play ball in college, right? Nope. Though he did play American Legion ball for a year after high school, Calkins went to college to play a sport he was even better at. Golf.
“I’m 5-foot-9, I’m not a very big guy, I didn’t have a future in baseball,” Calkins said. “I’ve just always had a feeling that this is the right thing to be doing for me.”
Calkins had competed in two Junior World Championships and two Junior America’s Cups by the time he graduated in 2013, ending his prep career with four consecutive state appearances and a second-place finish at the state tournament as a senior.
He went on to golf for the Community Colleges of Spokane for one year, winning the Northwest Athletic Conference title as a freshman. He spurned multiple Division I offers to instead move to California and turn pro at 19 years old. Six years later and he’s still competing there, and at tournaments all over the West Coast and Midwest.
Calkins has spent the past three years tearing through the Dakotas Tour, an 18-event professional golf tour played in the Midwest states of Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota. Golfers play for a total of approximately $850,000 over the course of nine weeks in the summer.
Calkins is a three-time Player of the Year and Money Leader, winning each in 2018, 2019 and 2020. He’s made over $200,000 in earnings alone in the Dakotas Tours the past three years.
In 2018, his first year on the tour, he ended as the points leader with 2,600.75 and as the money leader, with prize money totaling $74,585.67. He never finished lower than 22nd place after making the cut in all 12 events he competed in.
In 2019, he scored 2,575.42 points and captured $71,075 in earnings with three wins and six top-two finishes in 11 tournaments.
This past summer in 2020, he finished with 1,807.75 points and placed top-3 in five of the 10 tournaments he competed in, earning $55,757.
“I guess I’m a crafty vet now, even though I’m 25,” Calkins said.
He drives to every tournament he competes in, logging 23,000 miles this summer alone on his 2018 Toyota Camry, a car he bought after winning his second consecutive Dakotas Tour in 2019.
During the Dakotas Tour, if a golfer makes the final group, which Calkins has all three years, he hops in his car and drives four or five hours to the next course and tees off during the first round the next day. In 2020, that was 10 events for Calkins, each at a different location.
“It’s brutal,” Calkins said.
Though the success has been gratifying and memorable for Calkins, he’s still looking ahead in his career. He’s primed and ready for a bigger stage.
“Not a lot of people can make a living playing the mini-tours, so I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done, but I’d also like to get to the next level,” Calkins said.
The next level for Calkins would be to earn a spot on the PGA Tour, win majors, win tournaments, have fans and win for his parents.
“All the stuff you dream about as a little kid,” Calkins said.
The road to get there has a few different routes. The most common course is going through the first, second and third stages of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School, by way of the Korn Ferry Tour. The KFT is the developmental tour which features professional golfers who have either not yet reached the PGA Tour, or who have done so but then failed to win enough FedEx Cup points to stay at that level. It’s basically baseball’s Triple-A league but for golf.
It’s certainly an achievable goal for Calkins, who spends nearly every single day of his life golfing. When he’s competing and practicing at the same time, he averages about 40-50 hours a week on the course. It is a 9-to-5 job, but he wouldn’t want it any other way.
The best experiences throughout his journey have come in the friends and connections he’s made along the way. He has friends all over the Midwest that he can call at anytime and ask to stay at their house. Those things last longer than money, he said.
“I’ve met so many people who are going to be lifelong friends,” Calkins said. “Making all the money is super fun, that’s cool, being able to spend and put large amounts of money away, but the people and the friendships, that’s the valuable stuff.”