Many children who aspire to become professional athletes dream about playing against their heroes. Mark Brown, the head PGA of America club professional at the Tam O’Shanter Golf Club in Glen Head, turned his childhood dream into a reality when he teed off recently at the Senior PGA Championship.
From May 23 to 28, he competed against legends such as Tom Watson, John Daly and Bernhard Langer at the Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C.
“Usually, I’m behind the ropes watching them compete, but this was a unique and special experience for me,” Brown said. “It’s something that I always hoped would happen. It’s a dream come true.”
Brown, 50, of Oyster Bay, made the cut at the championship and tied for 53rd, ahead of some former major champions. After making it through local and regional qualifiers last September and November — when he played against nearly 500 golfers — he was one of 35 PGA club professionals from across the country who qualified for the Senior PGA Championship.
He credited his consistent golf swing to Anthony Cancro, Tam O’Shanter’s PGA director of instruction. “Literally, within 10 minutes, he gets my swing right back on track,” he said.
Brown has worked as the head professional for the club for 20 years. There, he offers lessons, and manages golf shop operations and player development programs. He said it’s a great “luxury” to work at a club while being able to compete in PGA tournaments, but none of this would be possible without his staff.
“For some reason, I have a knack of hiring good people and building a good support group around me,” he said. “That’s the key. If I didn’t have a good staff all these years, then I wouldn’t be in the position to play as often as I do.”
When Brown wasn’t practicing his golf swing as a child in Salem, Mass., he played hockey and baseball. He went on to play baseball at Eckerd College in Florida on a scholarship as a catcher from 1984 to 1988. He said that the hand-eye coordination skills required in baseball helped him transition to golf. He explained that the strong legs that he gained from years of squatting as a catcher now help to drive the ball long distances. He has some of the longest drives of any competitor around.
Brown started working at the Presidents Golf Course in Quincy, Mass., over summers when he was 14. There, he watched golf professionals give lessons on the course. He last worked there in 1994. “It looked like a good life,” he said. “You didn’t have to put a tie on every day, so I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Brown got into the PGA Apprentice Program in 1989, and he later found his way to the Tam O’Shanter Club when one of their golf instructors reached out to him after hearing about his golf expertise. “The people here at Tam O’Shanter have been like family to me,” he said. “I love this place, and the membership here couldn’t be nicer to me.”
Brown said the “fun atmosphere” at the club is what has kept him around all these years. “It’s a little bit looser than most clubs, so I encourage myself and my staff to play with club members,” he said. “They really get a kick out of that.”
Brown took a trip to Maryland to compete in the qualifier for the U.S. Senior Open on Monday at the Argyle Country Club. He shot 66, making the cut for the tournament, which will be held in Massachusetts in July. Regardless of how he does in his upcoming tournament, he’ll never forget the dreams that he has already fulfilled.
“The experience that I had in Washington, D.C. will last for a lifetime,” he said.