It’s Kyle Kelly’s favorite time of the year again.
But the Spokane native and head golf professional at Tamarisk Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., claims he isn’t feeling as much of the Pacific Northwest’s mid-July heat as he usually does as he prepares to defend his title in the $135,000 Rosauers Open that starts today at Indian Canyon Golf Course.
The two-day Bank of America Pro-Am will kick off the 24th annual event, with the 54-hole tournament proper to follow on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
When asked if he feels any added pressure in returning to his former hometown as the defending champion of his favorite PGA sectional event, the 33-year-old Kelly replied, “To be honest, probably the opposite is true.
“The Rosauers has always been one tournament I’ve really, really wanted to win, and now, having done that, there’s probably a little less pressure on me, which makes it a little more enjoyable to come back up here and try to do it again.”
If Kelly, a graduate of North Central High School who played his college golf at Eastern Washington University, were to successfully defend the championship he won last year, he would join Jeff Coston, Chris Mitchell, Greg Whisman and Michael Combs as the only golfers with more than one Rosauers title.
Coston (2008, 2006, 1997), the only three-time champion, is in the 159-player field again this year, along with past champions Corey Prugh (2009), the Manito Country Club assistant pro, who finished third in an unsuccessful attempt to defend his title last year; former Ritzville resident Ryan Benzel (2005), Casey McCoy (2001), Rob Gibbons (1991) and host professional Gary Lindeblad (1990).
Among the others expected to seriously challenge Kelly’s title defense are 2010 Northwest Open champion Brian Thornton, Everett amateur Reid Martin, who won this year’s Oregon Open, and Scott Erdman, who recently tied for second at the PGA Professional National Championship at Hershey (Penn.) Country Club.
Kelly, who posted a three-round total of 15-under-par 198 to win last year’s Rosauers by a single stroke over Brandon Kearney, also played in the PGAPNC and, despite missing the cut by two shots, comes into this year’s Rosauers feeling good about the state of his golf game.
“It’s been so hot in the desert that I hadn’t played much until going back east,” Kelly said. “I hit the ball about as well as I have since the Rosauers last year. I just didn’t make enough putts.”
Kelly stopped short, however, of predicting he will be a factor in the Rosauers once again.
“I hope I can be,” he said. “You never know until Friday morning rolls around and you tee it up. But when you talk favorite golf courses, Indian Canyon is certainly one of mine.
“So, hopefully, I can get a little bit of that magic back again.”
Tee times for Wednesday’s start of the tournament proper will run from 7:30 a.m.-2:27 p.m., with golfers starting on both the first and 10th holes.