Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mike Brady (No, Not That Mike Brady), the 14-Club Rule, and Walter Hagen Gamesmanship

Mike Brady played golf. No, not that Mike Brady - the father on The Brady Bunch. Wait! That Mike Brady did play golf on The Brady Bunch, but he's not the Mike Brady we're talking about. We're talking about Mike Brady the professional golfer, who played in two playoffs for the U.S. Open in the early part of the 20th century.

Mike Brady the golfer lost U.S. Open playoffs in 1911 and 1919. This post doesn't really go anywhere, I just wanted to share two interesting nuggets picked out of Peter Alliss' The Who's Who of Golf entry about Brady.

You know there's a 14-club limit in a golfer's bag, right? It wasn't always that way. The 14-club rule came about because golfers in the early days of professional golf sometimes carried two dozen or more clubs in a bag. Lawson Little, for one, was known for carrying as many as 25 clubs in his bag. The USGA and R&A put a stop to that by introducing the 14-club rule.

Well, in the playoff for the 1911 U.S. Open, it was Mike Brady, George Simpson and Johnny McDermott. At that time, there had yet to be a native-born American win the U.S. Open. Had Brady won it, he'd be much more famous today. But he didn't, McDermott won. Brady? He played the playoff with only six clubs in his bag. Maybe we're lucky the governing bodies didn't decide on a 6-club rule!

Brady's next near-miss at the U.S. Open happened in the 1919 playoff against Walter Hagen. According to Alliss' account, Hagen trailed Brady - who was already in the clubhouse - by one stroke as Hagen reached the 18th green. Hagen called for Brady to come out of the clubhouse to see Hagen sink the tying putt - which Brady did, and which Hagen did.

Brady and Hagen then went into an 18-hole playoff:

"In the playoff that followed, a Hagen shot finished half-buried in mud on the 17th. He requested permission for a free drop, and, when this was refused, asked if he might identify his ball. When Walter had done this, the ball was far more easily playable and soon Brady found himself the loser by 78 to 77."

Did you catch that? Walter Hagen pretended it was necessary to ID his golf ball in order to improve his lie, thus helping himself win the 1919 U.S. Open.

That sort of gamesmanship was common in the early days of professional golf. Today, the TV cameras would zoom in the ball, the player's actions would be described and debated on blogs and Twitter, YouTube clips of it would be around forever, the golfer's reputation would be permanently tarnished.

Mike Brady never won a major championship. But at least he went on to become an architect, marry a hot wife, have three sons and three step-daughters. No, wait ...

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