Max Kennedy is PGA Tour dreaming after coming-of-age season

Ronan MacNamara

Max Kennedy (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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After winning for the first time on US soil and receiving his maiden Irish senior cap, Royal Dublin’s Max Kennedy is reaching for the stars this season as he hunts the big time.

Max Kennedy has returned Stateside for his senior year at the University of Louisville with one goal on his mind – earning a PGA Tour card.

The Royal Dublin golfer began the fall season ranked 20th in the PGA Tour University rankings with the number-one-ranked player at the end of the season receiving PGA Tour membership. USA Walker Cup star and former world number one amateur, Gordon Sargent recently graduated to the PGA Tour via the PGA Tour U.

Players finishing second to fifth in the rankings will have no limit to the number of PGA Tour events played as a non-member and no limit to the number of sponsor exemptions received while also earning Korn Ferry Tour status.

Kennedy has already seen what the likes of Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg has done on the PGA Tour, while he also rubbed shoulders with Silver Medallist Christo Lamprecht at the Arnold Palmer Cup. The 21-year-old is coached by Shane O’Grady who, of course, has been the long-time coach of Leona Maguire and he hopes to keep trending in the right direction.

“My main goal next year is to get a PGA Tour card through PGA Tour U. I’m coached by Shane O’Grady, I’ve been with him all my life, he’s a great coach and we go through a lot. I love working with Shane. I have a good balance with him, we know when to work on things and we also know when to let things go,” explains Kennedy who helped Ireland to a bronze medal at this summer’s European Team Championships.

“Turning pro is the main goal and making the PGA Tour. That’s down the road, have a year in college, still have lots to achieve in the amateur game.

“PGA Tour U is basically a steppingstone to making the PGA Tour. Number one gets a PGA Tour card, 2-5 get full Korn Ferry Tour cards which is a really good tour and then 6-9 get partial Korn Ferry and 10-20 get Latin America or Canadian Tour status,” explains Kennedy who is currently ranked 35th after a top-10 and three top-25 finishes this fall.

“It’s a great idea and I feel it helps a lot of college players make the transition from university to tour golf.

“I played with Christo Lamprecht in the Arnold Palmer Cup, and he was leading the Open after round one so it is possible. Played a practice round with him and he was sixty by me! It’s unbelievable what Ludvig Aberg is doing at the moment. I know him quite well, we played together twice and got on well. He’s a superstar and will have no problem winning PGA Tour events and it was no surprise that he made the Ryder Cup team this year.

“It’s all about consistency; when he plays, he rarely shoots over par so that’s the most important thing, being consistent and that’s what I try to do even though it’s very hard to do that. My biggest improvement this year has been consistency in my all-round game, my routine has got very consistent which flows into all parts of your game so consistency with my routine.”

2023 has seen the Dubliner come of age. In January he finished runner-up to Liam Nolan at the South American Amateur before embarking on a scintillating run of six top-10s and a win in his first seven events of the year. This paved the way for a call up to the International side for the Arnold Palmer Cup before earning his first senior Irish cap at the European Team Championships where he led the charge for Ireland in strokeplay qualifying before they eventually beat England in the bronze-medal match at Royal Waterloo Golf Club.

“We had an amazing week from start to finish, the whole team bonded really well, and we played really good golf at the right time. We would have liked to come away with the gold medal but to get a medal anyway is very nice,” Kennedy smiles.

“It is a step up in level from Boys golf, playing in a European standard event in men’s golf is what you aspire to as a young boy. To play well was a great feeling. I came fourth or fifth in the three rounds of strokeplay which was a really nice start to the week to lift the spirits. My game was in really good shape, and I was hitting it well, so I just said ‘stick to the gameplan and go for it,’ and that’s what I did all week. Even though I missed a lot of putts I still hit it really well and made a lot of good decisions. I won my first singles match which was really nice, and we beat France on the last hole which was a thrill.

“Losing the Danish match hurt us a bit but to win the English match was a great finish to a good week.”

Kennedy took to senior men’s golf like a duck to water, carrying the flag in the opening ceremony before reeling off three birdies to open his first round of strokeplay.

“I was first off on day one for the Irish lads, so I wanted to put a score in and not have them relying on me to do anything big. I actually birdied the first three holes which settled me in really well.

“The lads just voted me to carry the flag in the opening ceremony as it was my first men’s cap, so it was a cool experience.

“I’ve played a lot of really good golf which I am proud of. I played really well from January to May and then I had a couple of struggles in my swing, but I feel in strokeplay I have been very consistent this year and I want to remain that way.”

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