Kelly, a Toledo native, called Ohio a "great mecca for golf."
By LORI WILLIAMS
VIENNA -- To quote ESPN sportscaster Jim Kelly: "Buckeyes love birdies and watching great golfers."
How would he know? Kelly is a native Buckeye, who has made a career out of his love for birdies and watching great golfers.
All the more reason for Kelly to be excited about the 2001 Giant Eagle LPGA Classic, which he will host this weekend as the ESPN2 play-by-play announcer.
"We all know what a great mecca for golf Ohio has always been," said Kelly, citing "the LPGA Jamie Farr in Toledo, the Senior PGA Tour at Kings Island, Jack's [Nicklaus] Memorial in Columbus and, of course, the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic."
Early love: Growing up in Toledo, Kelly acquired his love of sports early.
"Touch football, driveway basketball, and baseball in the street, complete with the occasional broken window," he recalled.
Kelly also took advantage of the cold northwest Ohio winters and learned to play hockey.
"We skated on a creek, literally, and learned to jump over the sticks frozen in the ice," Kelly said. "Eventually, I made a rink in our backyard, building up the sides with snow, and slowly glazing, flooding, and then freezing.
"Every morning we'd go out and skate before school, and turned the picnic table on its side to serve as a goal."
The games brought out the future sportscaster in Kelly.
"I announced games in my head while skating," Kelly said. "I was Gordie Howe, and always scored."
Career choice: After playing baseball, football and basketball at Toledo DeVilbiss high school, he contemplated a career as a newspaper reporter or going to Annapolis.
"I flunked the physical," he said. "Red-green color blind -- never knew until that test."
He entered the University of Toledo as a business major, and jumped at his first opportunity to play organized hockey.
He quit college during his sophomore year to try his hand at radio.
By 1970, he found his way to Golf Network. "It was really just a rented local station, but came along about the same time as Tom Watson and Johnny Miller, so that era and I grew up together.
"I just talked golf with all the pros; from Byron Nelson to Sam Snead, Nicklaus to Palmer. It was the greatest on the job training possible."
His next break came with CBS Radio Sports in 1974, where he wrote, produced and hosted "Sports World Roundup."
Kelly's next major career move came when he joined ESPN in 1985. Since then, he's covered as many as 30 golf tournaments annually (more than any other network commentator), including both the PGA and LPGA.