U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Tom Brandes: 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur Runner-Up Interview
October 1, 2015 | Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
Q. It's a little hard right in the aftermath, but tell me about the week and how you feel about it overall, just getting to the championship match and how you got there.
TOM BRANDES: Well, it's a dream come true. I'm a career amateur. I think Steven [Liebler, semifinal opponent] had been on the PGA Tour for many years. I think a lot of guys had tried professional golf at one point.
I'm a true career amateur. I really picked up golf at a late age, probably mid-30s. I didn't play any U.S. Junior or any of that. Didn't play college golf.
So for a career amateur, I mean, this is as good as it gets.
Q. Now, when you say picked up golf in your 30s, does that mean starting or being competitive?
TOM BRANDES: Being competitive. I played a couple years in high school and then didn't play any college golf but played a lot of other sports, basketball. Always fairly athletic.
Q. You went to Seattle University?
TOM BRANDES: Yeah. I played soccer at Seattle University. But funny, I went out for the golf team in the spring and I tried it for a couple weeks and said, Boy, I can do this later.
Q. How many USGA events is this for you approximately?
TOM BRANDES: Let's see, I think 14, and then a British Senior Amateur. I lump that in there with it, so 14 or 15. Like I said, that's three mid-Ams. I qualified for my first one in 1990, I think. That's about when I really -- I got a taste and went to a USGA event and I was like, Wow, this is really, really special, very special. Just to get into any USGA event is a thrill for me. Maybe I set my sights too low. To make it this far is just over the top.
Q. That whetted your appetite?
TOM BRANDES: It did. It did. It's like, I want to do this again. Yeah, it really did whet my appetite. Good way to put it. That was in '90 or '91.
Q. Obviously a very special week. Yesterday you had a marathon match, a very steady match where you finally made the shot you needed to to put you over the top. It was do-or-die thing on the 21st hole.
TOM BRANDES: That's correct. There was an amazing statistic about that match with Steve: he made one bogey in 21 holes and lost. So that's the kind of match it was. Yeah, on that 21st hole, I was telling my wife last night, you know, it was an all-or-nothing shot. My attitude was, Well, I'm going to win this or lose this on this hole. It probably would've gone on forever. (Laughter.) We were both hitting fairways, hitting greens. Again, we could not make a putt. So I said, Well, let's just do this. I got it so close I couldn't miss it.
Q. Yeah. So there the adrenaline of playing in a national championship, but you're also battling fatigue mentally and physically, right?
TOM BRANDES: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the preparation was little or nothing this morning. I'll never use any of that as an excuse, but it was just a little different challenge because I didn't hit any chips or pitches. I didn't go out to the range because I knew it was going to be dark. The preparation was a little difficult, but that didn't bother Chip. Like I said, I'll never use that as an excuse.
Q. You also have to weigh your fatigue and everything. How much is it going to weigh me down if I try to go out and beat balls in the dark for half hour?
TOM BRANDES: Absolutely. In these kind of events, if you're hitting it well, you leave it alone. I didn't hit a lot of balls, but it's the touch shots that’s the really the important thing, or the short game. The feel part is what I want to get.
Especially it went from really dry and fast to slow and wet, and, you know, to adjust to that with the short game is more important than everything else.
Q. It was drizzly, windy, and cool, much cooler than it has been, not real fun out there.
TOM BRANDES: My hands were freezing. But I didn't bring any hand warmers or stocking cap. I borrowed rain pants. My wife at the last minute talked me into bringing a rain jacket. I had tennis shoe golf shoes. Didn't bring an umbrella. Yeah, but Chip just played better than I did. I just didn't hit the shots that I needed to hit today. He played very well.
Q. Any point where you thought, Oh, if I could just cut into that a little bit?
TOM BRANDES: 10, the putt on 10. And the putt on 9.
Q. Seven feet maybe?
TOM BRANDES: Yeah, I had an uphill look. If that would've gone on 9, would've changed the whole thing. And the one on 10, I mean, it was very, very doable there on 9 and 10.
Then 11 was going to hit 9-iron and the wind was just -- I talked myself into the wrong club.
Q. It was swirling, wasn't it?
TOM BRANDES: Yeah. I talked myself into the wrong club. So it went from really flipping it in my favor to hitting that 8-iron over the green and making bogey and getting flipped the other way.
But it was, you know, a good match throughout, I guess. The hole that I guess I got the most frustrated with was No. 13. I had 3-wood and the wind really picked up, and I got it in my head that 3-wood was too much.
Instead of waiting for the wind to die or go back and get a different club, I just kind of fanned the 3-wood. That bunker is no good.
Q. One last question: You said you got a ton of emails and texts last night and today. Tell me about your support from folks at home.
TOM BRANDES: Yeah, great golf community in Washington. Actually in Oregon, Pacific Northwest. So tremendous support and comments from fellow competitors, and then also from my club, Rainier Golf Club in south Seattle. They live vicariously through you. They want to be part of it.
Q. That's tremendous.
TOM BRANDES: It's really amazing. Then neighbors and -- yeah, I had, what, 38 or 40 texts last night, and I'm not even going to look today.
Q. For the record, too, here today with you was your brother?
TOM BRANDES: My brother. I have two brothers, two sisters. My nearest brother is Dick Brandes. He's a retired FBI agent who worked in Newark for many, many years. I used to come back to New Jersey to visit him. Not my first time to Jersey.
And my brother retired to North Carolina, so he drove up with his wife. Then he brought his really good friend, Dick Harris, who lives in Stone Harbor, somewhere about an hour away. That was Team Brandes. Then to have Pat [O’Donnell] come out and caddie for me was -- I told Pat -- he called me last night and he goes, I'm going to come back and watch. I said, That's OK.
I could tell in the conversation he wanted to caddie, so I said, Yeah, sure. Absolutely. And I told his wife and told everybody, I said, Would've been a lot colder and a lot wetter and darker being by myself.
So having Pat out there, just someone to talk to and share the bad shots and share the good shots with made it a much better day. I thanked him 100 times.