Keegan Bradley finally inside gate at Augusta National

It wasn’t when he was driving to college — in an old 2003 Ford with more than 100,000 miles — and stopped to eat a sandwich across the street from the main gate and watched the traffic go in and out.

It wasn’t when he was at St. John’s and someone arranged for the van carrying the university team to a tournament to pull in the gate at Augusta National, drive down Magnolia Lane, turn around and drive back out. The quick entrance-exit did not happen and Bradley knew why.

His father, Mark Bradley, recalled the story of when he called his son that evening to ask about it. “He said, ‘Everyone else was bummed Dad, but I just thought it’s not time for me to go in there.’”

Bradley made that drive down Magnolia Lane, with his father, in February when he played his first round at Augusta National in preparation for his first Masters. The 25-year-old, who won last year’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, teed off in his second major Thursday.

“The time for him to go in there was with me,” Mark Bradley said.

Bradley over came a double-bogey on his opening hole — thanks to a mud ball — and shot a 1-under 71.

His father said Bradley gets his even-keeled temperament from his mother, Kaye.

“If I made double on the first, I would probably make double on the second,” said Mark Bradley, a PGA professional.

Bradley rebounded from his start with four birdies — at Nos. 2, 4, 12 and 13. A bogey on 18 was the only other blemish.

While competing in his first Masters, Bradley took the time for his temperament and fun-loving side to show through.

“I’m trying not to change anything when I’m out there,” Bradley said. “I have so much fun around this course just because there are so many memories out there. You are out playing and you kind of realize the holes around you and what’s happened in the past. It’s cool to be a part of.”

There is a contingent of family with Bradley, including his parents, sister, nephew and Hall of Fame golfer aunt, Pat Bradley. His mother cooked his favorite dinner on the eve of the tournament, a chicken dish with corn and rice.

And it was Pat Bradley, a six-time major winner who passed on a piece of advice when Keegan was a youngster, who played a big part in his getting to Augusta National as a professional.

“His Aunt Pat told me years ago that if she could do it all over again, she would spend two-thirds of her time chipping and putting and one-third on the full swing,” Mark Bradley said. “I remember one day, when Keegan was about seven, I said ‘Do me a favor. Say that to Keegan.’ So she did, and so whenever you saw Keegan, he was always out chipping and putting. But he also played a lot.

“He’s got the talent, and he put more than 10,000 hours in.”

Now is Bradley’s time to be at Augusta National.

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