Golfer Brady Calkins achieves success with help from his relatives

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN Brady Calkins reaches back to swing on Aug. 14. Calkins won last year's Western North Dakota Charity Pro-Am atJimmy Lafakis/MDN Vardon Golf Club.

Familiar faces greeted Brady Calkins as he strolled throughout Vardon Golf Club. Calkins earned the Western North Dakota Charity Pro-Am’s championship last year, so he expected to greet old friends on the fairway.

There was one person he did not anticipate seeing, however.

His father, Kelly.

Kelly drove over 20 hours to watch his son attempt to repeat his sterling performance. He traveled from Chehalis, Washington, and surprised Brady on Thursday, the event’s first official day.

“I saw him 10 minutes before I teed off on the first hole,” Brady said. “I saw him in the parking lot and said, ‘Oh, that guy looks like my dad.'”

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN From left: Kelly Calkins, Brady Calkins and Joe Blaser at the 2019 Western North Dakota Charity Pro-Am. The event is held at Vardon Golf Club.

Before Brady knew his father was on his way, he took time to reflect on the biggest win of his professional career. Last year, the 24-year-old shot 30-under-par in his first meet in Minot.

“It was cool walking down the fairway,” Brady said. “I had such a big lead that I didn’t really have to worry about anything.”

The moment was extra-special because Brady shared it with his cousin, Joe Blaser. Blaser flew out from Washington to caddie for Brady, who turned professional at 19 years old.

The win marked the first time the cousins had shared a professional course. Blaser had an itch to caddie, so they made it happen.

“It was a decent amount of travel,” Blaser said. “But it made for a fun trip. That’s for sure.”

Blaser has become something of a good-luck charm, as he’s served as his cousin’s caddie ever since. They honed their skills in the desert, moving to La Quinta, California.

“You’ve never seen more support than that,” Kelly said, gesturing at Blaser. “Getting him on board is probably the best thing I have ever seen. These are two great kids.”

The cousins say they’ve been friends since birth. They played sports against each other growing up and went to rival high schools.

Blaser claims he has caddied 26 events for Brady.

“I kind of just started because (Brady) was playing,” he said. “I had been playing golf, and it was a pretty easy transition. I just feel like we’ve been doing pretty well ever since I came out here.”

Brady earned 2018 Player of the Year honors in his first year playing on the Dakotas Tour. He won three events, placed second in another and third in two more. He finished in the top 10 eight different times.

Last summer, he ended the tour as both the points leader (2,600.75) and the money leader, nearly $75,000 including a $25,000 payout in Minot. He never finished lower than 22nd place after making the cut in all 12 events.

Kelly came out to Minot last year and saw his son win a professional event for the first time.

“We expect to win,” he said. “Why would you do it if you don’t want to win?”

This year, there’s a target on Brady’s back. Through three rounds, he’s posted a score of 194, (61 on Thursday, 67 on Friday, 66 on Saturday) good for 22-under-par and a one-stroke lead ahead of Andre Metzger from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Blaser said the cousins set a goal to finish better than last year’s 30-under-par.

“I want to win every golf tournament I play in,” Brady said. “That’s the only mentality to have when you’re playing. I’m laid back, but I want to beat everybody. Even my friends. It doesn’t matter.”

In his first two years on the Dakotas Tour, Brady cemented his routine. He’ll usually listen to Eminem to help pump him up, but might throw in some Mac Miller or country music for some different vibes.

When he steps on the course, his cousin provides the support.

“I’m just trying to keep him in a good state of mind,” Blaser said. “I try to keep him even-keeled, whether he’s playing really well or struggling out there. We want the same mentality all the time. I just help him any way I can. I can help him with a read, yardage or what putt to hit.”

The Calkins clan does not know what the tournament’s final day will hold. Regardless, joy and admiration permeate throughout the family.

“This game doesn’t happen overnight,” Kelly said. “It happens every day. Win, lose, or draw, whatever he’s done, I’m proud of him.”

Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.