Old Bridge's Brown nominated for two state PGA awards

July 06, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If there was ever a time for Bruce Brown to be nominated for statewide awards based on his teaching ability, this is it.

The Old Bridge Golf Club head professional has been nominated for Teacher of the Year and Junior Golf Leader in the Kentucky section of the Professional Golf Association. An awards selection committee will determine the winner in each category.

"Both are very prestigious awards, and it is an honor to be nominated for both of them," said Brown, who had five of his junior playe3rs qualify for the Kentucky State Amateur. "But I think I have a pretty strong case on both of them this year."

Here's why:

* Ben Fuqua won the 2003 Kentucky state high school championship, was named Mr. Golf in Kentucky and signed with the University of Kentucky.


* Lauren Scholl, who will play next year at Murray State University, won the Women's State Amateur last month. She was third in the 2003 state high school championship.

* Tina Carey won the Kentucky Amputee Players Championship last month.

* Scott Bolin won the Homer Profitt Invitational last month.

* Luke Lovell won the J.E. Butler Memorial last month.

All of them took lessons from Brown.

"I had never had a one-on-one lesson until I met Bruce," said Fuqua, a recent Danville High School graduate. "I had two lessons from him before the regional my sophomore year and then won the region. He definitely elevated my game. He took me from an average junior player to one of the most dominant junior players in the state.

"He gave my game more direction and focus. He made me set goals that I never had before. If not for Bruce, I might have just ended up playing football and going to UK just as a student. Now I have a golf scholarship."

He has helped about 30 high school players earn scholarships

Brown has helped about 30 high school players earn college scholarships since Old Bridge opened in 1989. That includes local players like Erica and Sami Montgomery of Casey County, Mike Kehoe of Danville, Josh Lee of Boyle County, Tracy Hughes of Casey and Erika Price of Boyle.

Garrard County's Bolin, 27, has taken lessons from Brown for 14 years.

"He's the only one who ever taught me and ever significantly helped my game," Bolin said. "He's the best teacher I've seen, including college coaches I had. I really think a lot of him. He's been great for me."

Former Boyle basketball and softball player Tina Carey feels the same way. A 2000 car accident resulted in her having a below-knee amputation on her left leg.

At the time, her only golf experience had been "playing around" on a par-3 course.

"Being an athlete, I wanted to participate in some athletic activity, but didn't know what," she said.

She invited Brown to attend an adaptive golf clinic with her. Since then Brown has helped develop her game to the point that she recently won the women's division of the Kentucky Amputee Tournament Players Championship.

"The lessons and confidence that I received from Bruce certainly were a factor in my ability not only to win, but also to have the confidence to play in a ladies' league."

Brown estimates he gave over 400 individual lessons last year in addition to clinics and group lessons. He worked with amputee and wheelchair golfers as well as a blind golfer. He's coached Mike Yance, who is playing in the World Deaf Games this summer.

He's helped coach the Centre College golf team for four years and has had former Centre coach Herb McGuire as well as current coach Jennifer Ruff as his students.

Brown also helped develop a golf assessment program in conjunction with McDowell Wellness Center that not only analyzed a player's game, but also found ways to coordinate specific exercises with improving the individual's golf swing.

"That's been a tremendous program for all ages and abilities," Brown said.

His specialty has been youth golf

While he works with golfers of all ages, his specialty has been youth golf. Not only does he give lessons, but many young golfers also work at his course. He also makes Old Bridge available for high school matches and has players from Burgin, Mercer County and Lincoln County regularly taking lessons from him.

Old Bridge was also one of the original courses 12 years ago for what is now the Musselman-Dunne Junior Tour.

"All these kids are like my family," Brown said. "A lot of them are here every day. I probably give more free lessons than paying lessons. That's just part of it. I love kids, and I grew up on a golf course the same way they are.

"About the only thing I don't like is that I can't go to a lot of events because my kids are pitted against each other. That's just too difficult to watch because I don't want to get caught in the middle. I want them all to do well."

None has done better than Fuqua, who had to survive a regional playoff with Lincoln County's Dan Grigson, another of Brown's students, to even reach last year's state tournament.

"He helps you understand your swing. Then he breaks it down and makes small changes," Fuqua said. "Next comes the mental part. He's told me so many things that have helped me, and are still helping me. Every time he works with me, I learn something else."

That's why Bolin, an assistant basketball coach at Garrard, thinks Brown deserves both awards.

"If I had to choose between him and anybody else, he would get my vote," Bolin said. "He's very deserving of both awards because he works with such a broad base of people. He offers his services free to kids if they will just work at his course. He really only has them work so they will be around the golf course and have an opportunity to get better. That's just the kind of person he is and what makes him such a good teacher."

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