1971 U.S. Junior Amateur Champion Brannan Dies

Native Californian also member of 1977 Walker Cup Team

By David Shefter, USGA
January 10, 2013

In 1971, Mike Brannan became the then-youngest U.S. Junior Amateur champion at 15 years, 8 months. (USGA Museum)

Mike Brannan, who in 1971 became the then-youngest champion in U.S. Junior Amateur history and later represented the USA on the 1977 Walker Cup Team, died on Jan. 8 in Alamo, Calif., of complications from cancer. He was 57.

Brannan, who grew up in Salinas, Calif., enjoyed an outstanding amateur career, beginning with his 1971 Junior Amateur triumph at the age of 15 years, 8 months.

His record stood for 20 years until Tiger Woods, at 15 years, 6 months, surpassed it. Brannan was the equivalent of 12 over par for his six matches that year at Manor Country Club in Rockville, Md., capped by his victory over Robert Steele, of Dunkirk, N.Y., in the 18-hole championship match, 4 and 3. The field included medalist Curtis Strange, a future two-time U.S. Open champion who lost in the first round, and semifinalist and future PGA Tour pro Mike Reid. Reid would later become a college teammate of Brannan’s at Brigham Young University.

b_NCGABrannanTrophy
Last spring, Mike Brannan won the Northern California Golf Association Senior Championship. (Courtesy NCGA)
Brannan was eliminated in the first round the following year in his title defense, but in 1973, he again advanced to the championship match. He defeated future U.S. Open champion Scott Simpson in the semifinals at Singing Hills Country Club in El Cajon, Calif., before falling in 20 holes in the championship match to another future PGA Tour player, Jack Renner. It was the first championship match in Junior Amateur history to go extra holes. Brannan missed a chance to become the first multiple Junior Amateur champion when he missed a 3½-foot putt on the 18th hole. He holed a 30-foot birdie on the 19th hole, only to be matched by Renner’s 9-footer. Renner’s par at the 20th hole sealed the win.

Brannan had a memorable summer season in 1973, winning the first of his two California State Amateur titles and the Pacific Coast Amateur at Desert Forest in suburban Phoenix.

He went on to play for BYU, where he was a four-time All-American. In 1975, he won the Utah Open while at BYU.

In 1977, Brannan advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur, losing to eventual runner-up Doug Fischesser at Aronimink Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia, and helped the USA Walker Cup Team to a 16-8 win over Great Britain and Ireland at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. He had a 1-2 record in the Match, teaming with Jay Sigel to win a Saturday foursomes match.

Brannan played professionally on the PGA Tour  for five years (1979-83), finishing runner-up at the 1979 Houston Open. In the late 1980s, Brannan became a reinstated amateur and a full-time equipment representative for Ping. He qualified for the 1989 U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club, where he eliminated two Walker Cup players on the same day – qualifying medalist Eoghan O’Connell of Ireland and David Eger of the USA – before losing to eventual champion Chris Patton in the semifinals. A year later at Cherry Hills Country Club, Brannan advanced to the quarterfinals, where Eger eliminated him.

Brannan also competed in three U.S. Opens, tying for 22nd in 1982 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, the same course where he won his two California Amateurs. He played in the 1978 Masters as an amateur, receiving his invitation by being a member of the 1977 Walker Cup Team.

“His fluid swing was a thing of beauty,” Ping chairman and CEO John Solheim told Golfweek, adding that he has probably played more golf with Brannan than anyone. “I was always so impressed by what he achieved at the amateur level. He was a quiet competitor who usually came out on top.”

Last spring while battling his illness, Brannan captured the Northern California Golf Association’s Senior Championship at Spyglass Hill in Pebble Beach. Solheim said that Brannan never mentioned his illness at that event.

“He was always humble about his achievements,” said Solheim. “Mike leaves a tremendous golf legacy, but he will be remembered for his generous, gentle ways.”

Brannan leaves his wife, Shelley, and two sons, Kyle and Chase.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

 

Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
Chevron
   

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image
Rolex
   

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



Rolex image
IBM
   

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image
Lexus
   

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express
   

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment


AmEx image