Senior pro breaks nearly 40-year-old Arnold Palmer record at Players Championship

Jerry Kelly hits from the first tee during the final round of the Chubb Classic at Tiburon Golf Club on February 19, 2023 in Naples, Florida.

Jerry Kelly at the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida.

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Golf is a funny game where 33-year-old World No. 3 Rory McIlroy can get sent home early without a check while 56-year-old Jerry Kelly plays the weekend.

And by making this week’s 36-hole cut, Kelly made a bit of history.

After opening with rounds of 74-72, Kelly broke Arnold Palmer’s record from 1985 as the oldest player to ever make the cut in Players Championship history. Kelly’s age of 56 years, 3 months and 16 days bests Palmer’s of 55 years, 6 months and 19 days in 1985.

Kelly bogeyed his final hole of the second round Friday and had to wait it out until the completion of the second Saturday morning when Eric Cole two-putted his last hole to keep the cut from moving back down to two over.

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No Laying Up’s Kevin Van Valkenburg asked Kelly, who is in the field this week by virtue of his win last season at the PGA Tour Champions’ Bridgestone Senior Players Championship (now called the Kaulig Companies Championship) if fighting to make the cut validated his exemption.

“No,” Kelly told Van Valkenburg. “It shows me maybe I shouldn’t be here because I’m struggling to make the cut. I’m slumming it here this week.”

Kelly will “slum” it in the third round with Kieth Mitchell and Alex Smalley. Smalley was born in October 1996, seven months after Kelly made his first career start at the Players. He’s 36 years older than the youngest player in the field this week, Tom Kim, who also shot 146 over the first two rounds.

The Wisconsin native has three career PGA Tour victories and his resume includes battling with Tiger Woods down the stretch of the latter’s first Players Championship win in 2001. Kelly has 11 PGA Tour Champions victories including winning the Senior Players — one of the tour’s majors — both last year and in 2020.

He shot rounds of 73-70 to miss the cut at his last Players appearence in 2021.

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