Chris Brooks wanted to provide a little levity, so he pulled out a red clown’s nose after walking off the 18th green of The Olympic Club’s Lake Course on Sunday.
“I played like a clown, but I had a great ring-leader in my partner [T.J. Brudzinski],” said Brooks after the team shot an even-par 70 for a 36-hole total of 142 during the stroke play portion of the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The result left the team three shots short of advancing to match play.
Such perspective is easy for the 47-year-old Brooks. Nine years ago, his son, David, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He’s a quadriplegic who is confined to a wheelchair,and has little or no ability to move.
But his mind is sound and David, a fifth-grader, attends a mainstream elementary school.
He also provides inspiration for his father. On his bio form for this championship, Brooks said he started playing competitive golf because of his son.
“I think about my son every day, every shot, every moment I’m out on the golf course,” said Brooks. “I had this feeling that he wasn’t going to be able to play sports as I did as a kid, and I wanted to do it for him and for him to be proud.
“When I hit a bad shot or a bad putt … I look at it a lot differently than I did 10 or 12 years ago.”
Golf didn’t enter Brooks’ life until he enrolled at Ohio State University following a five-year stint in the United States Air Force. Brooks felt he wasn’t ready for college after high school graduation, so he enlisted in the military, working on A-10s and F-16s, both stateside and in Europe. The experience allowed Brooks to mature as a person and made the transition to college easier.
Then he attended Ohio State, met his wife, Lisa, and discovered golf at the school’s 36-hole facility. Today he’s a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch and a five-time club champion at Scioto Country Club, the club that spawned Jack Nicklaus and is hosting the 2016 U.S. Senior Open. Brooks is disheartened that he will miss the age cutoff by nine months.
Nevertheless, when he and Brudzinski made it into the Four-Ball, he was thrilled to finally qualify for a USGA championship. They met 20 years ago when the two worked at Bank One in Columbus, Ohio. The duo shared a love of golf and have since partnered in several four-ball competitions. They qualified for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in Cincinnati last year.
Equally thrilled was Brooks’ son. While he didn’t travel to the Bay Area, he does come to the course when Brooks is competing in local events.
“It didn’t work out here because it’s a long trip,” said Brooks. “It’s hard with the wheelchair and everything else. When I’m competing at home, my wife will push him around in his chair.”
David can comprehend words and uses a special device to communicate. It just takes a little longer than normal for the words to come out.
“He will use his head,” explained Brooks. “A reflective dot on his head reflects onto the communication device and as he dwells on the buttons, he will communicate his words and create sentences. He is thriving at school. My wife is the doctor, nurse and caregiver. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
On the ride to Olympic before Round 1 on Saturday, Brooks chatted via FaceTime with his son back in Ohio.
Before hanging up, Brooks told his son, “Buddy, I love you and I am thinking about you.”
David replied: “Daddy, try to win.”
“He’ll be disappointed when there is not a trophy coming home,” said Brooks.
Perhaps he’ll settle for a clown’s nose.
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.