After seeing his professional career cut short by a premature shoulder injury, he went on to become a pioneer, founding a company that continues to help promising young British golfers gain scholarships to American colleges and universities. .
He reflects on all of this with a sense of pride and rightly so, but there’s no hiding the heightened tone of excitement in Lorne Kelly’s voice as he talks about his latest golf adventure.
Along with fellow Scotsman Bruce Davidson, he is involved with Congaree Golf Club, which according to the main message of its website is a “world-class golf club with a philanthropic mission at its heart”.
Located in Ridgeland, South Carolina, it hosted a PGA Tour event last year, the Palmetto Championship, but, with all due respect to anywhere else in the United States and beyond, it’s not not an ordinary tournament venue.
A limited number of Ambassadors, people with money, influence and expertise, help provide a dream opportunity for young people in the United States and around the world with golf ability but lacking financial, parental or social support
Through Congaree Global Golf Initiative, they receive intensive training over a four-week period under the watchful eye of world-renowned coaches. At the same time, expert university consultants offer advice and guidance on the university admissions process and other educational skills.
“It’s probably the fanciest college prep camp you’ll come across in the world,” said Kelly, originally from Dunoon but now living across the Clyde Firth in Inverkip. Scotland Sunday.
In his role as a sports advisor, the 48-year-old is at the heart of a process of selecting 40 kids – 20 Americans and the rest international – a year for an opportunity that aims to prepare them for life with golf. at the heart of it all.
“We have kids from Venezuela, China, Russia, etc.,” Kelly added. “Countries that historically aren’t golf countries and we enjoy the challenge of bringing kids here who would never have even thought of American college golf, but who certainly do once they’ve lived their stay at Congaree and mingled with ultimate professionals and advisors.
“For us, it’s about getting these deserving or underprivileged kids into colleges and universities and supporting them. They are very unlikely to succeed as players, we know that, but they have guaranteed jobs or internships waiting for them thanks to our ambassadors.
“CEOs of these big companies around the world are reaching out to us right now asking ‘when is your first group going to graduate because we have internships waiting for them here’, and that’s why it’s changing. their life.”
Due to the fact that it’s not only free but also an amazing opportunity, it’s perhaps no surprise that some people think it’s too good to be too true and ask: what’s the catch? There are not any.
“Thanks to Bruce and I being involved, there will always be room for Scottish children and the irony is that we are struggling to find someone this year, although an ideal candidate contacted me earlier. this week,” Kelly said.
“I was shocked because he was a little boy who started golf at the start of the pandemic, so he was like a 32-year-old handicapped. He has been on his local course almost every day for the past two years and he now plays five, so clearly he was a natural from the start.
“His mum is a single mum so she can’t even afford to send him to tournaments. He’s doing well in school and he’s an absolutely classic Congaree kid.
Stephen Dundas traveling from Scotland to San Roque via Russia
As a child himself growing up on the Cowal Peninsula, Kelly had only one thing on his mind when it came to golf and after a string of successes including being part of the 1998 Eisenhower Trophy winning teams at the Chile and Walker Cup on Scottish soil the following year, he indeed became a professional player.
But, after just 18 months in the paid ranks, his shoulder ‘collapsed’, sending him into the game on a different path than he had planned but, ultimately, giving him a good life, as well as a real satisfaction to help others.
“I was very lucky,” insisted Kelly, who claimed his Lytham Trophy victory in 1998 – the same year he triumphed at the Scottish Stroke-Play Championship at Lossiemouth – after also finishing second and third in either side of that success in one of the biggest amateur gaming events on the Lancashire site.
“When I started doing Pro Dream USA and the consulting stuff, I found that all I was doing was talking about my past experiences. It was just talking about things I’ve done and , before you know it, you’re like, ‘I’m pretty good at getting the word out here.’ I was just a golfer and that was all I was supposed to be (laughs) .
From Nairn, where the GB&I team also included fellow Scots Graham Rankin and David Patrick, Casey has recorded 21 wins and played in five Ryder Cups, while Donald, of course, was world No.
“It’s something that’s given me a lot of sleepless nights over the years,” Kelly admitted in response to being asked if he’d ever thought about what might have been without his injury.
“There was a time, at the end of my amateur career, when I could not have understood that I was not successful in golf. But, at the same time, I probably built my career playing in that Walker Cup team.
“Being able to tell people I was part of this team has always been a big bonus for me, although I still feel that being on a four-man GB&I team to win the Eisenhower Trophy was a bigger achievement. “