Last year on the Nationwide Tour, Kelly started out on a partial medical exemption, needing five tournaments to make $13,000 and earn conditional status. He not only did that, but finished in that proving-ground tour's top 25 for the season, giving him a PGA Tour card for 2012.
This year, his successes have been slim. He's recorded no top-10 finishes, his best effort was a tie for 37th in the Mayakoba Golf Classic and his top payday was $16,140 for his tie for 47th in the Shell Houston Classic.
Today, however, he's gunning for much more.
While golf icons such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson failed to make the cut at Old White this week, Kelly and a few other PGA Tour lesser-known players - Ken Duke, J.B Holmes, Charlie Beljan and Ted Potter Jr. - hope to cash in.
"It's hard for me to believe those guys missed the cut,'' Kelly said of Woods and Mickelson. "They never do, you know? But I think just having the guys that haven't been in this position, be around them, kind of talk and kind of go through the same thing, I think it will be good. It will be nice to have some guys that are feeling like I am out there tomorrow.''
Kelly, built like a football linebacker at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, was one of the best golfers to play at the University of Washington, tying for second in the NCAA Championship as a freshman in 1999.
But the competitive career for Kelly, son of a golf pro, actually began at the age of 6 when he was the youngest player to participate in Washington State Junior Golf Association tournaments, normally reserved for golfers 8 and older. His first win came as a 7-year-old and he was a WJGA state champion at ages 11 and 13.
Golf was only one of Kelly's sporting loves growing up. The other was basketball.
"I played six months of golf and six months of basketball,'' Kelly said. "The weather up there is not conducive for golf all the time. It's cold up there, man. It's 40 degrees and rainy and cold. So it was mostly a summer thing for me.
"I think as a kid, you've got to do some other things. I think you've got to find out what you like and if you overdo it at times, I think you can get burned out. I think it was kind of a good break for me. I knew guys were leaving [for golf] and going to Arizona as juniors, and by the time they got to college, they didn't want to play any more. They got burnt out.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.