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Jerry Kelly battling disease during PGA Tour Champions season

Jerry Kelly battling disease during PGA Tour Champions season

MADISON, Wisc. – In advance of the U.S. Senior Open at SentryWorld in Stevens Point last summer, Jerry Kelly talked about having to play through a wrist issue – an odd one where it was going out of joint, and how inflamed it felt despite his best efforts at rehabilitation.

Just about a year later, as he readied for the American Family Insurance Championship that started Friday at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Kelly acknowledged that inflammation had spread to other joints – to the point where he couldn’t get out of bed, or a chair.

Kelly, 57, sought out a cause and testing discovered that he had rheumatoid arthritis. The autoimmune disease causes the immune system to attack healthy cells by mistake, causing inflammation in joints. Kelly also said the testing revealed lyme disease, which in its late stages can also cause swelling in joints.

The Madison native said he has been put on a regimen of the chemotherapy drug methotrexate and is in his eighth week of treatment.

“Small levels compared to what normal chemo patients take,” Kelly said Thursday. “It’s just kind of a first line of defense trying to get those white blood cells that are killing you from the inside, they’re eating healthy tissue. Got to my lungs, got to my esophagus, my stomach. It didn’t get to my heart, which that’s one place that it gets to, so I’m thankful for that. I went through a week in Newport (in March) where I couldn’t eat. Anything that I ate was just getting attacked from the inside. I feel like my lungs are getting a little bit better.

“It’s taken a lot of muscle away from me, and the fatigue is real. You know, I just felt a couple times where I couldn’t get the adrenaline up for tournaments. You know, I have a hard time playing without adrenaline.”

Kelly has kept playing, and the AmFam Championship is his 11th start of 2024 on the PGA Tour Champions. He tied for second in his tournament, the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, Arizona, and has two other top-10 finishes.

He opened on Friday with a 69 and joked after a putt that he might need a few cocktails.

“I made a 20-footer for par on 10. I’d like to say it got me fired up, but I actually said, ‘I’m going to start drinking tonight.’ The next thing you know, I made four in a row,” he joked after the opening round. “Again, it’s smoke and mirrors out there again. I didn’t feel like my body responded very well.

“I know I’m jumpy, but that’s ridiculous, a little…


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