ROCHESTER, New York – Mark Brown is a familiar and popular name in New England golf circles, mostly because he grew up on the South Shore and carved out an impressive amateur and professional competitive resume for about a dozen years, until relocating to Long Island many years ago where he is currently the head golf professional at exclusive Tam O’Shanter Golf Club in Oyster Bay.
Last week the 52-year old Brown competed against the best senior players in the world in the 80th KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and had a memorable tournament, finishing T-21, 9-over par sharing low club pro honors with Bob Sowards. What also made the week special was having life-long friend Frank Remmes on the bag.
Brown had a career putting performance at Oak Hill Country Club Sunday May 26, while Bob Sowards walked the East Course gauntlet and escaped with a memorable par save on the 18th hole. The combination of performances assured that they would share Low Club Professional honors and carry home crystal bowls to close the 80th KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
Brown posted a 1-over-par 71, while Sowards, the PGA Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio, finished with a 74. They shared 21st place at 9-over-par 289 and earned $32,571.42 apiece in the most historic and prestigious event in senior golf.
Brown and Sowards finished in the same spot on the scoreboard with the likes of past major champions Colin Montgomerie, Lee Janzen, Paul Lawrie and Vijay Singh. On this Sunday, Brown and Sowards held their own on a rugged golf course where only three players finished under par.
It was Brown’s third appearance in the Championship and had a longtime friend, Frank Remmes, as caddie to steady him. Remmes, 60, also grew up on the South Shore but now lives in Atlanta-based is a former golf professional turned owner of a insurance brokerage consulting firm. He had given Brown his first golf lesson when the future PGA Club Professional was a teenager in Quincy, Massachusetts.
That golf lesson ended abruptly, Brown recalled. “He said that I didn’t have a good grip on the club. Things improved after that.”
Remmes had caddied for Brown in two PGA Championships and this week in Rochester.
“Mark gets a lot of attention about his long game, but his short game is spot on,” said Remmes. “If I had his short game, I would be out here competing.”
There was no short circuit in Brown’s putting. He needed only 25 putts and registered 12 one-putt greens.
“It was probably one of the best putting rounds I had in my life,” said Brown. “Everything I looked at went in. It was amazing. I hit it like a 15-handicapper. And I just kept making putts after putts and squeezed a couple birdies in when I got lucky. And it was just amazing. It really was.”
Brown trailed Sowards by three strokes to open the final round in the Low Club Professional chase. He birdied Holes Nos. 5, 10 and 14, offsetting bogeys on Nos. 8 and 16, and a double bogey at 15 when he missed the green left and had his problems.
“I was just trying to hit a little cut 8-iron in there, and I started too far left and it kind of rode the wind,” said Brown. “So, I was trying to either hit in the left front bunker or the left side of the green. I tried to chip an 8, and all week we’re having not too many chips. They’ve been full swings pretty much. If I had to do that over, I’d like to try that.”
Brown closed with a bogey at 16, and two successive pars.
“It felt great seeing the balls go in today,” he said.
Sowards has competed in 10 PGA Championships, and had come up short in making the cut in those major appearances. The reigning Senior PGA Professional Champion and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year used that experience to steady himself Sunday.
Sowards made it dramatic, needing par on the 477-yard, uphill 18th hole to match Brown for Low Club Professional honors. He hit a drive to a pocket of rough on the right edge of the fairway and dug deep to gouge a 6-iron from 167 yards. The ball hit the back fringe and stuck there, not getting the expected slow trickle down toward the flagstick.
He lagged his birdie putt from 35 feet, making a closing 18-inch par putt.
Sowards took a deep breath to analyze the day.
“I’ve never done this before,” he said, after he and Brown had been honored by NBC Sports, presented crystal bowls and stood side by side with newly-crowned KitchenAid Senior PGA Champion Ken Tanigawa. “Being able to get the crystal bowl and be on the 18th green, and later sit at the Champion’s Toast was really cool. It’s just a great week”
Sowards said that he had hurt a hip during the winter while competing in South Florida
“I started hitting it well probably two weeks ago,” he said. “My body started feeling better. But, I now feel like I’m ready for the rest of the year. So, I’m looking forward to defending my title (Senior PGA Professional Championship, Oct. 3-6, in Austin, Texas).
Brown and Sowards were among an eight-player PGA Club Professional delegation competing on the weekend in the Championship.