Kelly trying to bring 'joy on the course' after wife's cancer battle

For the ninth time on the PGA Tour Champions, Jerry Kelly was raising a trophy and celebrating a win.

This one coming at the Principal Charity Classic in Iowa.

"It was a kind of a relief," Kelly said.

The trophy is a symbol of winning both on the course and off.

"Friday was my win," he said. "That was it. That was the big day."

Hours before teeing off in the event on Friday, Jerry and his wife, Carol, received great news from her doctors regarding her fight against kidney cancer.

"She’s got another six months," Kelly said "She’ll never stop paying attention to it. It’s something we have to focus on every 6 months for the rest of her life. So, it’s always going to be in the back of her head. We’ll do our best to clear it out and just make normal life."

Back in the fall of 2021, Carol had her right kidney removed because of a cancerous tumor and her recovery became a family focus.

"There was a strain, mentally, on both of us," said Jerry. "Yet, it was more of the unknown. And we know a little bit more now. And we can be excited, and we can go forward. It’s only been six months. It feels like it’s been years, you know, because it’s been tough."

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This meant golf was not at the forefront of Jerry's mind and his game was showing that.

"I was pretty down a lot of this year," Jerry said. "My back was bad. I was hurting."

But with the positive news for carol, he seemed to heal up as well, including on the course.

"It just showed me it doesn’t matter that much," said Jerry. "You know, you’re just going to play a game. You know, win or lose, what happens outside the ropes really matters. But let’s just bring that joy inside the ropes. And once it happened, boom! Right away."

As she was recuperating in November, Jerry's good friend and fellow golfer Steve Stricker also became seriously ill ending up in the hospital. 

"We kept on texting," Jerry said. "But that was a really bad situation. I mean, he was, he was in bad shape. We were very worried. Thank God he’s here."

After recovering and returning to golf, Stricker was back to helping Jerry get back on top with a putting lesson.

"Steve and I have always been there for each other," said Jerry. "And I know he’s been there for numerous other people, whoever asks, Steve is there for. So, I appreciate it. But, I appreciate our friendship and that’s kind of what friends do."

"It was great to see him play well because I know he’s been struggling a little bit prior to winning last week," said Stricker. "I think it was just mainly his putting, and it was nice to see him on top again and get a W."

"He had to show me how to win again," Jerry said.

While that physical change made a difference in Iowa, so did a mental change.

"I started with a bogey and I didn’t worry," said Jerry. "I didn’t stress. It was just like, uh, you know. Let’s go."

Now, Jerry is moving forward inside the ropes and outside as he and his wife Carol have a new outlook on life.

"What’s happening inside of the family, it brings that perspective, and you just hope that you can follow with it," Jerry said. "I understand it. Sometimes it’s going to take practice, but I’m going to ride this high of life as long as we can. I’m not worried about what happens this week or this year. Just, yeah, enjoy life."

Carol will have check-ups every 6 months for the rest of her life to monitor any possible return of her cancer.