Age is No Object for Brown
At 53, Coloradan set to defend title in national superintendents tourney
by Gary Baines
Butch Harmon is arguably the best-known golf instructor in the world, but in the mid-1970s when he encouraged David Brown to play the game more, the plea mostly fell on deaf ears.
Harmon was the head professional at Crow Valley Country Club in Davenport, Iowa when Brown worked on the grounds grew at the course as a teenager.
"He wanted me to play," said Brown, the longtime superintendent at Flatirons Golf Course in Boulder. "He'd give me hats, ball and clubs, but I only played sporadically. Playing golf wasn't what we did in our high school years. I was into football, wrestling and baseball."
But that's changed considerably in the decades since. In fact, a year ago, Brown won a national golf title, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America National Championship. (He's pictured above with the trophy.) And this weekend (Feb. 25-26), Brown will defend that national title at the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
Asked about his chances this time around, Brown said, "I'm liking them. Why not? I need to have a good performance to show I'm not a one-hit wonder."
Actually, Brown will be defending more than one title this weekend. The 53-year-old has won the senior division of the GCSAA National Championship each of the last two years.
While the national superintendents tournament may not be the U.S. Open, it does feature some high-caliber competition. In winning last year, Brown shot rounds of 75-66 for a 3-under-par 141 total at PGA National's Champion Course, home of the PGA Tour's Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
On the final day, Brown strung together four straight birdies to begin the back nine and eventually closed with a 6-under-par 30 on that side. His final-round 66 turned a four-stroke deficit into a three-shot victory.
The win "was big for me. It's a big deal within our association, and it's the biggest deal I play in," Brown said. "All of our peers from our country and all over the world are there.
"Winning it all was kind of unexpected. I had won the seniors the year before and I wanted to repeat as senior champion. It got to the last nine holes, and I thought I might as well go for it. I ended up shooting a 30 on the back nine of the Honda Classic course. For me being a superintendent, it's something I've dreamed of winning. And now I'm really looking forward to defending, and I have confidence knowing that I can do it."
Last year's victory resulted in Brown being named Golf Person of the Year by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. He'll receive that award June 10 at Cherry Hills Country Club.
While the GCSAA national victory was the biggest of Brown's career, he's no stranger to other high-level tournaments. Last year, for example, he finished eighth in the CGA Senior Stroke Play and was the third low amateur in the HealthOne Colorado Senior Open.
Brown has been the head superintendent at Flatirons since 1983, and a GCSAA member for 30 years. He's also worked at the Ranch Country Club, Boulder Country Club and in Steamboat Springs.
Through much of his first decade at Flatirons, Brown was more noted for his skill at rugby than as a golfer. He competed at a high level in rugby -- including in several European countries -- before ending his playing days in the 1990s, though he still does some coaching.
Brown took up golf in a more concerted way in the early 1980s at the prompting of his boss then at Boulder Country Club, Dan Coffin.
"He said if you want to be a superintendent you've got to play golf," Brown recalled.
When he gave up competing at rugby, Brown lowered his golf handicap to below 5 by 1993. And since 2002, he's finished in the top 10 three times in the open division of the GCSAA National Championship, including last year's win. Nowadays, he plays to a 1.1 handicap.
If nothing else, Brown seems very passionate about playing golf. Several years ago, on a trip to New Zealand, he played six rounds of golf in a day -- all walking -- at six different courses. It was the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere, and he started playing just before 5 a.m. and continued until 11 p.m.
"That's almost a marathon distance (of walking)," he noted.
Of course, Brown knows a little bit about marathons. On Oct. 10, 2010 (10-10-10), he ran a marathon in Chicago at age 52.
All in all, the years since Brown turned 50 have been very memorable.