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Brown Plays His Hand At Deal

by Lewine Mair - June 24, 2013

“Legends in the making,” read the posters for last week’s Amateur Championship. It sounded like a bit of R&A hype but, to be fair, there are plenty of great amateurs who have gone on to be worthy of the “legend” label, with José María Olazábal, the 1984 Amateur champion, among them.

Most of the would-be professionals in the 288-strong field at Royal Cinque Ports were thinking along altogether less lofty lines. They knew that they would have their work cut out to graduate to the Challenge Tour, let alone the major championship arena.

Some, such as the undeniably promising Renato Paratore of Italy, came to Kent with the backing – financial and otherwise – of their federations; others with nothing other than a healthy dollop of self-belief.

The 18-year-old Daniel Brown, a 1.8-handicap teenager from Bedale in Yorkshire, belonged in this latter category. At No. 732 in the World Amateur Rankings, he was not a likely winner at the start of the week and even less of one when he opened with an 81. Yet when it came to his second qualifying round at Prince’s, he was the proud owner of a record-equalling 66 – at least until Paul Dunne came in with a 65.

It was one of those golden days for the unsung Daniel. He stuck fast to the fairways and if he made a mistake, it did not show on his scorecard. When it came to the greens, he holed nothing of any great length but everything from within 10 feet.

“He has plenty of bad rounds and a few good ones,” noted his father, good-naturedly. “This was one of the good ones.”

Michael Brown works on a pig farm. In amongst the more mundane tasks, he delivers piglets, with his finest haul a 22-strong litter.

"My wife and I hardly ever go out and we rarely have a holiday but we love doing what we're doing for Daniel... The last thing we would want would be to look back in 10 years' time and think that we didn't give him the opportunity." Michael Brown

Brown Snr enjoys what he does but he has no wish for his son to go down the same path. He would sooner Daniel tried his hand at golf – and never mind that the chances of making it are held to be virtually nonexistent for an amateur who is not at Walker Cup level.

Satisied as he is that Daniel will train as a teaching professional if he does not play his way to success, Michael is currently spending around £5,000 a year on golfing expenses. It is tough going but, far from grudging his son the money, he feels like a man holding a lottery ticket as he shares in his golfing dream.

“It’s highly likely that things won’t work out but who can be sure what lies ahead?” he asks.

Like many another parent before him, he will have pondered on how Ian Poulter never came within a million miles of donning a Walker Cup blazer. And on how Neil Raymond, a quarterfinalist last week, did not qualify for any financial help from England Golf until he won the first of his Brabazon Trophies at the age of 25.

“My wife and I hardly ever go out and we rarely have a holiday but we love doing what we’re doing for Daniel,” he explained. “The last thing we would want would be to look back in 10 years’ time and think that we didn’t give him the opportunity.”

Daniel, who works behind the bar at his club, had hoped he would qualify for a bit of English funding last year. That was when he won the Yorkshire championship and bagged four points out of six for his country in the Boys’ Home Internationals.

His hopes were in vain. “It was disappointing,” said the teenager, “but you have to realise that there are lots of good players out there who are in the same position as I am.”

As yet, his only connection to his national squad system is through having lessons from Graham Walker, the Yorkshire coach who doubles as England’s main man. Walker keeps Daniel abreast of what the top squad players are up to and Daniel makes the most of this inside information, keeping books of statistics and working on what they expose.

As a child, he would watch Tiger Woods on TV and pick up on the way the American was a bit of a loner, a player who was not to be distracted. “Watching Tiger has definitely helped my temperament,” he suggests. “Even when I’m frustrated, I can keep nudging along.”

There would have been a fresh rush of frustration last week when he lost in the first round of the match play but Daniel will continue get by without officialdom’s help rather more easily than officialdom can get by without Daniel and others like him. After all, you couldn’t have an Amateur Championship if only a handful of the more obvious stars-in-the-making took the tee.

The Browns’ belief that Daniel’s time will come is unshaken, while they remain happily convinced that pig-farming vs. golf is no contest.

Pigs will never fly but there is this chance – maybe only one in a thousand – that Daniel eventually could be jetting round the golfing globe.

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