For even the most casual of golf fans this week, Master’s Week, is a special time that is looked forward to all year and for many it truly means that spring has arrived. As southerners, The Masters holds an even more special place because it is the only PGA TOUR major that is conducted south of the Mason Dixon line every year… and we have all adopted it as our own, even though its true home is the quaint little town of Augusta, Ga.
Many young golfers around the south spend their days on the course imagining they have a putt on the 72nd hole to win the Masters, or envision they are actually hitting into the famed 12th hole at Augusta. One young Nashvillian who did just that while walking the links of Nashville’s municipal courses was Brandt Snedeker and this week, he will again look to win the tournament he admits would mean more to him than any other.
That is a big statement from the seven-time winner on Tour, who also took home the $10 million FedEx Cup in 2012, but if you saw his tearful press conference after letting the 2008 Masters slip away you really do get a sense of just how important this tournament is to Snedeker.
As he looks to finally slip on that famed Green Jacket, Snedeker is emerging from a bit of a slump he was going through the last few months. He broke out of that in a big way last month, winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am with a dominating 22-under-par performance. All of Nashville will be cheering him on this week, and in preparation, we look back to a story we did in 2012 prior to Snedeker winning the FedEx Cup, detailing how his Shelby Park beginnings led him to the PGA TOUR.
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Many young golfers around Nashville can be found almost any day – rain or shine – working on their game at one of the city’s municipal golf courses. All the while dreaming of the day they will walk down the fairways at the Masters or hoist a trophy as champion of a PGA TOUR Tournament. In truth though most will eventually only play in a some junior tournaments, or if they are lucky, become one of the select few that can play in college before settling into a role of weekend warrior on the links.
Occasionally though, you come across a kid that has the necessary amounts of talent and passion to make those childhood dreams actually come true. One such case is Nashville’s own Brandt Snedeker, who has quietly proven himself to be one of the top golfers on the PGA TOUR all while remembering his local roots.
Snedeker grew up honing his game on the fairways and greens of Nashville’s municipal courses and in particular at Shelby Park. The son of a Nashville attorney, Snedeker admits he and his brother Haymes never wanted for anything, but their parents Larry and Candy kept them grounded and exposed them to real life too.
Many of those life lessons were conducted on Nashville’s municipal courses, not country clubs where most people perceive PGA TOUR pros to be groomed. The Snedeker boys’ father taught them little lessons like playing quickly as to not hold up other players but both Brandt and Haymes also frequented a pawn shop called Pawns Unlimited, which was run by their mother, where bigger life lessons were learned as well.
“We were taught to understand that we weren’t any better than the people coming in the pawn shop,” Haymes said in a 2008 interview with the Commercial Appeal. “Dad, who represented many different classes of people, always told us, “Hey, you’re only one bad break away from being on the other side of the counter. Ya’ll remember that.”
While his parents were preparing Snedeker to be a level-headed young man, he was also fine tuning his skills on the golf course. In high school he was twice named Tennessee’s Junior Player of the Year and was a two-time state high school champion for Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy. He then went on to be a standout for the Vanderbilt Commodores, where he was a two-time All-American and Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
The crowning accomplishment for Snedeker’s amateur career though would easily be his win at the 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship which is one of the United States Golf Association’s most grueling tests. Snedeker was the top finisher out of 5,001 participants and eight rounds of competition. By winning the Public Links championship, he also earned a spot in the 2004 Masters Tournament, a lifelong favorite tournament for Snedeker.
As Snedeker realized his success on the golf course could one day become a career, he still remained level-headed and hadn’t forgotten where he had come from. He paid homage to one of his favorite childhood practice grounds after winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links by displaying the trophy at the Shelby Park pro shop for a year. When speaking about it with the Commercial Appeal in Memphis prior to the FedEx St. Jude Classic, Snedeker said of Shelby Park, “The golf course was my babysitter. I’d be there all day, and I loved it.”
Shortly after Snedeker’s appearance at the 2004 Masters, he turned professional and joined the Nationwide Tour for three years before earning his PGA TOUR card in 2007. When Snedeker finally made it to thePGA TOUR it didn’t take long for him to make his presence known.
He turned heads at the 2007 Buick Invitational with a course record matching 11-under-par 61 in his opening round. Snedeker then went on to collect six top 10 finishes and even a win at the Wyndham Championships in his rookie season. Snedeker’s performance in 2007 earned him the PGA TOUR’s Rookie of the Year award.
Snedeker has since followed up his fast start as a rookie by collecting over 11 million dollars in prize money with 28 top 10 finishes to his credit. This past year Snedeker turned in arguably his best season on Tour to date with a seven top 10s, and his second Tour win at The Heritage, where he outlasted Luke Donald win in a playoff.
Many professional golfers, once they have made it on the PGA TOUR like Snedeker has, end up moving their homes to Florida or other warm weather climates where year round practice isn’t hampered by cooler temperatures. Not Snedeker, he still calls Nashville his home.
Talking about Music City in a recent PGA TOUR.com interview Snedeker said of Nashville, “I went to school here, met my wife here and have friends here. I am Nashville. I grew up here, live here and will always live here.”
As a longtime part of the Nashville community, Snedeker also thinks it is important to give back to the community he loves. After the floods of May 2010 that hit Nashville, Snedeker like so many others, felt the urge to do whatever he could to help. He teamed with the Franklin American Mortgage Company as the host of their fourth annual ACC-SEC Charity Cup which is part of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl festivities. Proceeds from the tournament, which since its inception four years ago now top $150,000, went to benefit the flood relief efforts as well as The First Tee of Nashville and youth football.
“I saw how people were affected and it really hit home,” said Snedeker. (My wife Mandy and I) were only minorly affected with damage in our basement, but we knew people who were greatly affected. We wanted to do something to rejuvenate the giving when people need it most.”
Snedeker, who is currently rehabbing from offseason hip surgery, will look to continue his rise up the ranks of the PGA TOUR elite when he returns to the course this season. Until then, as you walk past the practice green after your next weekend round of golf, take a good look at the kid spending extra time working on his game. He just may be the next Brandt Snedeker.