W.F. West graduate Brady Calkins nearly quit professional golf after two tough outings at the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School, a feeder event for the PGA Tour.
The best golfer to come from Lewis County in recent memory, Calkins nearly stopped playing professionally several times before a historic U.S. Open qualification this past week.
First, in 2019, Calkins couldn’t find consistency at the Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, California, getting knocked out of qualifying contention on the first day. Three years later, after the COVID-19 pandemic took away many tournaments for up and coming golfers for several years, Calkins had another shot at it — but again fell short of qualifying.
He sat in his hotel room, after years of work and struggles fighting through the pandemic, and seriously thought about leaving the sport as a professional.
“I was over it,” Calkins recalled.
A half year later, and with the support of his friends and family, Calkins fulfilled a lifelong dream and expectation. Since he was a kid, he knew he had what it took to compete on the biggest stages, including the U.S. Open — held this year at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
“It means everything,” he said. “When I was just a little kid, I was always on the putting green, dreaming of this moment. To give myself the opportunity where I can make it a reality, it's awesome. I’ve had too many people tell me I’ve got what it takes not to believe in myself.”
Calkins qualified for the U.S. Open, an event that will feature some of the top golfers in the world, after tying for first at the Bend, Oregon, qualifier at Pronghorn Resort last Monday.
He shot a 68 in each round of the 36-hole tournament to move on and compete against the likes of Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth, to name a few — all U.S. Open champions.
Two hours after Calkins qualified, he turned on his phone to find 393 text messages, 40 missed calls, 200 instagram messages, and 95 twitter direct messages from friends, family, and a ton of names he didn’t even know.
Though he kept going partly due to the support of all his friends from Chehalis and Lewis County, he said to see that kind of support after his qualification meant a ton.
“I want everyone to know that their support is incredibly appreciated,” he said. “If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t have had the mental game to keep going. That stuff helps more than people realize. Golf wasn’t cool in Lewis County when I played in high school. I got made fun of ‘cause I didn't play football. When I go home, every one of my friends is playing golf, everyone loves it and spends all their money on it. It’s cool to see.”
Although Calkins had a short turnaround — just about a week and a half between qualifying and the first day of the Open on Thursday — he said it's gone by slowly. The 2013 Chehalis grad arrived in Brookline on Monday and got his first looks at the course, and his competition, before the main event.
“Leading up to the week it's been surreal,” Calkins said. “Monday was the first day on the course. I was extremely anxious wanting to get out here and settled in. I’ve done a lot more mental work, more than physical. We came out to The Country Club and played nine holes with a couple competitors and got some good advice.”
Calkins will tee off in the very last group on Thursday at 11:42 a.m. PT starting on the 10th hole with fellow Americans Ryan Gerard and Jesse Mueller.