Tait: GB&I’s Brown could be breakout star
Thursday, September 8, 2011
ABERDEEN, Scotland – Steven Brown wasn’t on anyone’s Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team last year. In fact, he wasn’t even named to the original 23-man squad last November. Yet Brown has a chance to become the hero of the 43rd Walker Cup.
At age 24, Brown is the oldest player on the GB&I team. Unlike his younger teammates, he hasn’t had much of the limelight over the years. Most of the team members have made names for themselves from exploits in junior golf. Not Brown. He’s a late developer.
Four years ago, Brown wasn’t even playing full-time amateur golf. He was doing what many 20-year-olds do after finishing high school.
“I went traveling around the world with some friends, and it was awesome,” Brown said. “Golf was the furthest thing from my mind. So I didn’t really start playing again until I was about 20. I didn’t really have the bug for a while, but I got it after my travels.”
A member of Wentworth, home of the European Tour, Brown took his place on Nigel Edwards’ GB&I team thanks to winning the English Amateur Championship, and runner-up finishes in the Scottish Stroke Play Championship and European Amateur.
“He’s played really well the last few months and deserves his place,” teammate Tom Lewis said. “Nigel asked players to step it up in the closing months to show they deserved a place on the team, and Steve did that better than anyone. Those of us who know him weren’t surprised because he’s a great ball-striker.”
Brown was a late entry to the GB&I squad after winning 3 1/2 points out of four in helping England beat Spain in May.
“After that, I got selected for a training-squad session here (Royal Aberdeen), and since then I’ve been in the squad and feel I belong,” he said.
Brown plays on the same Surrey county golf team as Stiggy Hodgson, and the two men share the same coach in Hugh Marr, the head coach to the Surrey Golf Union. Marr says one area of Brown’s game has improved to the point where he rightfully can take his place on the GB&I team.
“Tee to green, he’s magnificent,” Marr said. “He’s a strong ball-striker and a great driver of the ball. A few years ago, he had a poor short game and not much feel. He’s worked hard on it, and he’s starting to put scores together.
“The minute he discovered how good he could be, there was really no stopping him. He started to play well at the end of last year, and it’s fed through to this season. He’s gone from strength to strength, and he’s the sort of player who could come out a bit of a superstar at this Walker Cup.”
Brown isn’t thinking in superstar terms, but he shares Marr’s prognosis about his game.
“I’ve always struck the ball well, but my short game wasn’t as strong,” he said. “I’ve worked hard on that part of my game over the last couple of years, and it’s nice to see the hard work pay off.”
There’s another reason why Brown is on this Walker Cup team.
“I’ve been pretty consistent the last two years, but I changed my attitude at the start of this year,” he said. “I turned up to win tournaments, rather than last year when I turned up hoping to do as well as I could. I felt I was ready to win this year.”
As Sam Torrance once said of 2002 Ryder Cup underdogs Phillip Price and Paul McGinley: “Out of the shadows come heroes.” Brown could be just the man to take center stage at this Walker Cup.