By Cam Huffman
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
It was 1:30 a.m. in the early morning hours of July 8, 2012, and North Augusta, S.C., native Scott Brown was in bed preparing for the final round of The Greenbrier Classic.
The PGA TOUR rookie — who had finished eighth on the Nationwide Tour money list to earn a spot on golf’s largest stage — was playing well at 3-under-par and hoping to work his way up the leaderboard for a big paycheck and some earnings that would be critical for his future in professional golf.
Brown had just dozed off when his phone rang. His wife, Allison, who was back at home, was headed across the river to University Hospital in Augusta, Ga., for the birth of the couple’s first child, who was still supposed to be a couple weeks away.
Running on pure adrenaline, Brown never hesitated about what to do. Despite urging from Allison to stay and finish the tournament — with a seven-hour drive ahead of him, he might not make it in time for the birth, anyway — Brown jumped in a car with his caddie and began to drive south.
“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “I don’t think I could have focused on playing, anyway.
“The drive couldn’t have happened at a better time. It was really early in the morning and nobody was out. So I could book it. I really thought I was going to make it there, but she was only (in labor) for 53 minutes.”
It turns out Allison was right. Somewhere around Columbia, S.C., about an hour from Augusta, Brown received a text message with a picture of his newborn daughter, Elly.
“It was cool,” he said. “I was running on pure adrenaline at that moment. I hadn’t even been to bed, because my caddie and I went to one of the concerts and it didn’t end until 11:30.
“I didn’t sleep for like 39 hours.”
Brown did make it to the John Deere Classic the next week, finishing seventh and earning money that would eventually allow him to gain conditional status. That would pay big dividends seven months later.
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Brown’s life has changed a great deal in the past year, and not just because he’s changing diapers and figuring out the intricacies of properly buckling a car seat.
After finishing 148th on the money list in 2012, his first year on the PGA TOUR, he was relegated to conditional status and was prepared to play a large portion of the 2013 season on the Web.com Tour.
But on March 10, with Allison and Elly waiting for the results back in South Carolina, Brown beat out Fabian Gomez and Jordan Spieth to win the Puerto Rico Open with a 20-under-par four-round score. He earned enough money to buy a lot of Pampers — $630,000 — with the victory, but, more importantly, he regained his PGA TOUR card through 2015. He’ll play in the 2013 Open Championship and the 2013 PGA Championship.
“It’s crazy how things work out,” said Brown of the life-altering victory, which wouldn’t have been possible without the money he earned in the John Deere Classic. “It happened so fast. I really didn’t have time to process winning a golf tournament. But it was a cool moment.”
Even without the win, though, Brown said his life is definitely better than it was a year ago.
“(Having Elly) just makes bad days easier,” he explained. “They’re able to travel with me full time, which is nice. It takes a lot of stress off of you.”
Brown has played in 14 events this season, making eight cuts and posting a pair of top 25 finishes.
Brown, who’s back in The Greenbrier Classic for a second time — and hoping to play all four rounds — is confident that a return to The Greenbrier will be just what his game needs.
The couple will celebrate Elly’s birthday today with a party at The Greenbrier’s pool, and Allison said the historic resort will always be a special place in the couple’s life.
“It definitely is to me,” said Allison. “I’ve got trinkets from here that people that were here last year brought me when I had her. Now, to actually come here and feel the energy, it’s definitely a special week.
“Plus (Elly’s) turning 1, so we survived the first year.”
The Browns plan on attending both concerts this week, and Allison said that the events surrounding the tournament make The Greenbrier Classic unlike any other event on the PGA TOUR.
“It’s so focused on family,” she said. “It’s not just about golf. We’re really going to enjoy the week.”
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The Greenbrier isn’t the only place that holds a specially spot in Brown’s heart. As a senior at the University of South Carolina-Aiken in 2006, Brown helped lead his Pacers to a third straight NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championship on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs. He was given the Jack Nicklaus Award as the top golfer in NCAA Division II that year.
“(West Virginia’s) been a good spot,” said Brown, who will be inducted into that school’s athletic hall of fame in February. “I played good here last year, too. I just had to leave early.”
At least he had a good excuse.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.