SNOQUALMIE, Wash. — Jerry Kelly is a winner once again.
The Madison native got his first PGA Tour Champions victory on Sunday in the Boeing Classic, marking his first individual professional title since the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2009.
He shot a final-round 6-under-par 66 at the Club at Snoqualmie Ridge outside Seattle to defeat Jerry Smith by one stroke for a wire-to-wire victory.
“It’s definitely my first wire-to-wire win,” said Kelly, 50, who won three times and earned nearly $30 million on the PGA Tour. “Does it count, wire-to-wire, even though I lost the lead at one point today?”
Yes, it does count.
“Really, it’s because my wife (Carol) started traveling again,” Kelly said. “This is the first really full week that we’re together after just dropping my son (Cooper) off at Boulder, Colorado, for college. Really that, I wanted to do a little something to hopefully ease her mind about what we just went through in dropping off one of the coolest kids I’ve ever met.”
It was never easy. He and playing partners Smith and Billy Mayfair combined for 20 birdies and zero bogeys. Smith shot an 8-under 64 to put up the greatest challenge, but ultimately was defeated by Kelly’s birdies at 16 and 17.
“It was crazy,” Kelly said. “It has shocked me to no end the quality of play. These guys are shooting these numbers every single week.”
Kelly posted a 65 in the opening round for a share of the lead followed by a pair of 66s. He had a three-shot lead after two rounds.
“I finally got off to a good start and kept things going,” Kelly said. “The game plan again was to try to keep it on the gas. I missed three or four opportunities early, but I did make two good par saves which kept things going.”
Kelly tied Smith when he hit to 3 feet for birdie on the par-4 16th and moved ahead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th. After Smith left an 8-foot birdie try short on the par-5 18th, Kelly pulled his 3½-foot birdie attempt to the left and tapped in for the winning par.
“I really wanted that last one,” Kelly said. “I didn’t listen to my caddie. I thought it was outside the left. Now I understand why Jerry Smith left his putt short, because he was almost borderline going uphill, which you really couldn’t see that.”
“You’ve got to commend him for birdieing 16 and 17,” Smith said about Kelly. “I know he missed a short one on 18. Would have felt better if he had made it, but I hit a poor putt there, so I felt bad on that. ... Just kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You think Jerry’s going to make it. You’d like to make him make it, but he ended up missing it.”
The par saves came at the fifth and ninth holes and were important, if not critical, in Kelly’s quest to win for the first time.
“I did not want them to smell blood,” he said.
Bernhard Langer (65) and Billy Mayfair (66) tied for third at 16 under. Langer, who turned 60 Sunday, won the event in 2010 and 2016. He has a tour-high four victories this year, winning three of the tour’s five majors.
“I was trying to shoot my age today, but I couldn’t do it,” Langer said.
None of the top five players on the leaderboard made a bogey Sunday.
Colin Montgomerie (66) was fifth at 15 under.
Local favorite Fred Couples tied for 20th at 8 under after a 70.
Couples won the American Family Insurance Championship in June at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, where Kelly finished tied for 13th.