STROKE OF LUCK SPURS ON BRENNAN

 This article was written by Sean Fairholm of Global Golf Post.

Golfers measure their success by mere inches and degrees, the most minute details
splitting hairs between perfection and disaster. In Tommy Brennan’s case, a minute
detail did more than alter his score one way or the other – it kept him alive.

In October 2014, Brennan and his youngest son, Cooper, were slated to fish at the
mouth of the Mississippi River, at a remote destination south of New Orleans. At the last moment, his son asked to postpone the adventure due to schoolwork.

That night, when he had planned on being on a boat in the middle of marshland, Brennan had a heart attack.

“There’s no medical care at the mouth of the Mississippi River,” Brennan said. “I was 10 minutes away from the outcome for my family being totally dierent.”

Instead of being on the river, he was at his Covington, La., home and was transported to the hospital in short order. An emergency procedure took 67 minutes, and he would go on to regain full health.

So forgive Brennan, 57, if choosing the correct club or deciding whether to go for the
green in two on a par-5 pales in comparison to his physical state.

“The one thing I learned is that the most valuable thing in my life is my health,” Brennan
said. “Without it, then all the things you want to do, you can’t do.”

And what a tragic shame it would be if Brennan, one of the most likable figures in
amateur golf, wasn’t with us. He’s a colorful thread in the tapestry of the game for what
he has accomplished – a runner-up finish at the 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur and seven
victories in the Louisiana Mid-Amateur – and perhaps even more so for his sunny
disposition and uncanny knack for storytelling.

The book on Brennan starts at the age of 14 when his family took a vacation to Pebble
Beach. Brennan, who had stopped playing golf in favor of competitive tennis, sat in a
golf cart and wondered why he wasn’t on the course. Upon returning home, he grabbed
some clubs and got hooked once again.

“I’m not sure I’ve played tennis 20 times since then,” Brennan joked.

He progressed quickly, earning a scholarship to the University of Alabama, where he
roomed with future PGA Tour players Steve Lowery and Lee Rinker. Brennan attempted
to play professionally but soon realized he couldn’t make it, leading him to take a job
with Merrill Lynch in January 1988. Three months ago, the senior financial advisor
celebrated his 30th anniversary with the company.

As he built his career in finance, Brennan sat out from competitive golf. What he missed
dearly was not so much the tournaments themselves but the process of preparation and
all of those tiny details about which a golfer obsesses to ensure he is ready.

“Some people go have a beer, but I leave the office and hit 40 or 50 balls,” Brennan said. “That’s my therapy.”

When he returned to the game competitively in the early 1990s, Brennan qualified first
for a U.S. Mid-Amateur and then for a U.S. Amateur. In the 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur at
Hazeltine National, Brennan shot 40 on his opening nine and then made 27 consecutive
pars to vault into the top 20 of the stroke-play portion of the event. He drew Danny
Yates, the 1992 U.S. Mid-Amateur winner, in the first round and made an 8-footer on the
final hole to start a remarkable run that led Brennan to the final against Tim Jackson.

The weather had been perfect all week, until a bitter cold front came through in time for
the final match and made the conditions almost unplayable with 25 mph winds and
temperatures in the low 40s. Brennan was 1 down on the last hole when he lipped out a
lengthy putt that would have forced a playoff.

“Neither of us made a single birdie the entire match,” Brennan said. “I think I made six
bogeys and he made five.”

That performance got Brennan into events such as the Crump Cup and the Coleman
Invitational, a boost for his mid-amateur career. Since turning 50, Brennan has qualified
for three U.S. Senior Opens, one of the shining accomplishments of his life.

“A lot of the guys I see there, I played against in college,” Brennan said. “When they see
me out there they say, ‘Hey, Brennan, you made it, way to go.’ ”

What also drives Brennan to compete is not solely playing against golfers his own age,
but being around younger players as well. He won the Terra Cotta Invitational in 2005
and has been invited back to Naples, Fla., every year since his victory. Brennan has
developed into a mentor, teaching younger players he is paired with about patience and
the finer points of the game.

One year, Brennan was paired with Casey Wittenberg, a highly touted player out of
Oklahoma State who finished runner-up in the 2003 U.S. Amateur. Wittenberg
performed poorly and watched as Brennan was near the top of the leaderboard. About
10 days following the tournament, Brennan had a surprise in his mailbox.

“He kind of had a reputation for being a little brash,” Brennan said. “But I got the nicest
letter from that young man saying how much he learned about patience and how to
compete. And he sent that to me after shooting something like a pair of 80s.

“Those are the kind of experiences I’ve had at the Terra Cotta.”

Although Brennan laughs about having outstayed his welcome for the annual trip down
to Naples National, he is still a vital participant in the Terra Cotta event and many others.
This year he was paired with Jay Card, a young Long Island product who is the latest in
a long line to be grouped with Brennan while competing for the title.

But at the end of the day, it’s not really about winning. It’s about golf and the health that
allows Brennan to keep swinging.

“If I can keep my health, I think I can compete a little longer and have a good time doing it," Brennan said. 

And we would all be grateful for that.