U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Long-Hitting Club Pro Brown Holding His Own at Senior Open June 28, 2019 | South Bend, Ind. By Dave Shedloski

Club pro Mark Brown plans to unleash more of his power after making the cut in his second U.S. Senior Open start. (USGA/Chris Keane) 

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A hockey player in high school and a catcher on his college baseball team, Mark Brown possessed the athletic tools to pursue several different avenues in sports.

He chose golf, despite playing little as a junior and never any amateur competitions.

“I just thought being a professional golfer sounded kind of cool,” he said with an easy smile.

Some guys are like that. They just have a knack.

For the second time this year, Brown is showcasing his natural gifts. The 52-year-old club professional from Oyster Bay, N.Y., carded a 1-under 69 on Friday at the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame to easily make the 36-hole cut in the 40th U.S. Senior Open Championship. The head pro at Tam O’Shanter Club, in Brookville, N.Y., completed 36 holes in 5-under 135, good enough to reside on a leader board filled with luminaries of senior golf.

“I’ve played in a bunch of these. I feel more comfortable all the time,” said Brown, making his second U.S. Senior Open start to go with three Senior PGA Championship appearances. “I’ve gotten to know some of these guys, played some practice rounds with them. I see that my game is pretty close to theirs. I’m putting well. My driving distance is a big key. I’m right up there with them, so that gives me the feeling of being competitive.

“And it’s pretty cool to occasionally hit it by them, sometimes by maybe 30 yards or so.”

Brown, who also qualified for six PGA Championships, led the field in driving distance on Thursday when he opened with a 66; he slipped to second overall after Friday’s two-birdie, one-bogey effort. He has not yet used the full measure of his power game, preferring to utilize his driving iron on many holes to keep his ball in the fairway. That strategy might change for Saturday’s third round, however.

“I really think I have a low score in me the way I’m hitting it and the way I’m putting,” he said. “These first two rounds I’ve dialed it back a bit, played somewhat conservatively to avoid the big mistake. I was being protective with my score the first couple of days, and now I’ll try to be more aggressive.”

Thick in the shoulders, arms and legs, Brown still looks like he could play hockey or baseball. He credits the latter sport more for his golfing abilities. The difference between him and others who might learn to hit it long is that Brown can score.

He proved that earlier this year in the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., where he tied for 21st. 

Though Brown didn’t play much golf as a youngster, he was around the game a lot while growing up in Boston.

“I was working at a club up in Boston, the Presidents Golf Course, as a kid, and I worked there during college in the summer, and I saw what those guys were doing, and I loved it,” said Brown, who attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.. “It became a passion of mine to be a teaching professional and give lessons and help people get better.”

The day he graduated from Eckerd, Brown turned pro. He entered the PGA program, got certified and was hired as a head professional at a New York-area club. And he has been in the Metropolitan PGA Section ever since.

“Teaching the game is a very rewarding part of the job,” said Brown, who has never tried to qualify for any tour. 

He’s giving his fellow club professionals a lesson in competitive grit these past few months, and enjoying it.

“It’s been fun out there – a lot of fun,” he said. “And I know I can do a little better. Like I said, when I get the opportunity I’m going to step on that driver and see if I can give myself some chances to score. I’ve been putting well. I want to see if I can put it all together these last two rounds.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based writer whose work appears regularly on USGA digital channels.

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