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Don Branca’s Speech at the Utah State Am Breakfast of Champions
(This is a written copy of the speech given by Don Branca at the 2012 Champions Breakfast. Branca was the winner of the Utah State Amateur in 1974 and 1975. His win in 1975 was the last time the championship has been held at The Country Club until this year. Arlen Peacock also spoke at the breakfast and his speech is posted separately.)
Congratulations…it’s great to be with all of you this morning…past champions and current qualifiers, what a treat it is to participate in a small way in this event again…particularly here at the Country Club where I have so many fond memories. It’s particularly great to have my wife Becky here with me today…she along with my great family are what life is really all about.
I would like to thank Bill Walker, his staff and the UGA for the invitation to be here this morning, what a great organization…and how much the Utah Golf Association has meant to golf in Utah. They, having run this tournament since 1899, the longest running golf tournament in the world is quite a tribute. So congratulations UGA…thanks for what you have meant to Utah golf and to all of us here today.
I also want to acknowledge and thank Amedee Moran, the general manager here at The Country Club and his staff, whom always provide such a 1st class event, they are truly professionals…I’ve had the pleasure to witness their service in varied settings…and it has always been exceptional. Also, my brother Ron and his staff…thanks to them in helping to make an event like this happen. While talking about my brother, I want to give the proper shout- out to Ron as he was on my bag 37 years ago when I was fortunate enough to win here. However, having said that, I also must apologize to Michael my nephew, as it seems I must have used up the last of the value Ron had as a caddy way back then. Sorry Mike. It was truly a treat to have my brother part of that special day seemingly not that long ago. And to Steve Garcia, course superintendent…what a great job you consistently do with this golf course. Judging from the scores, it has certainly been a test this week.
And it’s so good to see my good friend Arlen Peacock again, what a fine gentlemen and fierce competitor. Arlen, a a two time Amateur champion is such a class act and has been such a huge part of Utah Golf over the years. Arlen and I met in the semi-finals the last time here at the Country Club; I believe we went extra holes where he then was kind to me. But we were both to share a very special day later, more about that in a minute. But it is an honor to share this moment again with Arlen.
You know we’re all here because we share something in common…the love of the game of golf. Golf has been part of my life as long as I can remember. It has truly provided many amazing opportunities and associations beyond my wildest imagination. Places I have been and people I have met; in no way can a value be placed on these experiences. One of my favorite movies is a movie titled… “Bagger Vance.” For those who haven’t seen the movie, Bagger Vance is a caddy played by Will Smith and Matt Damon plays the lead role of Randolf Junah, a famous amateur golfer from Savannah who plays in a exhibition match with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. And as long as you don’t watch Matt Damon swing the club, which is awful, the movie is great fun. There is one particular scene where Junah asks a question to 10 year old Hardy Greaves…his forecaddie…who idolizes him. He asks…You really love this game, don’t you…and Hardy replies; The greatest game there is…Ask anybody. It’s fun, It’s hard, you stand out there on that green, green grass and it’s just you and the ball, and there aint nobody to beat up on but yourself. This is the only game I know you can call a penalty on yourself…if your honest, which most people are. There just aint no other game like it. The show goes on to tell a heart touching story of honesty and integrity, a big part of this game of golf.
My love of the game began at this golf course where I grew up. As a kid winning the Utah State Amateur was always a goal for me. I was fortunate; there was a great group of players here at the club to provide all the competition anyone would want, most of the time…more competition than you would want. It was a great childhood for a golf junky and a wonderful place to learn. With my Father as my mentor and the head professional here at the Country Club for 53 years… I was truly blessed. It’s hard to come here and not see him doing his thing as he did for such a long time. As we all do, I learned many things from my father. Two of the most important things with regards to golf were to always be a good sport and to keep things in perspective; after all…Golf is just a game! I would see this advice again later, with the opportunity a win here, I believe helped make possible.
In 1977 Arlen and I were asked to play in an exhibition with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Arlen was the reigning Amateur Champion, and I a past champion, had just turned professional. What a special day we had playing with those two legends whom couldn’t have been kinder to us. . I still feel the nerves when I think of that first tee shot that day as I looked down the shoot of spectators lining the tee and fairway…thousands… whom had… I’m sure come to see Arlen and I. Again, I remember standing on the 9th tee and having Jack ask me where should you hit it, and what club to use. That didn’t happen every day…having Jack Nicklaus asking me for advice. If my memory serves me correctly Arlen, we gave them a pretty good battle.
It wasn’t too many years later that I had the opportunity to go to work in Park City for Park Meadows Country Club as their Head Golf Professional. Park Meadows was a new golf course under construction, it was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and the construction also was under his direction. At the grand opening of the golf course, I again had the opportunity to play with Jack, and this time Johnny Miller. We asked two of our local television sports announcers to be the caddies for Jack and Johnny and to be able to later use in marketing, we put microphones on them so we could record conversations between the caddies and Jack and Johnny. Jim Nantz at the time was with channel 5, packed for Jack; and Steve Brown, whom was with channel 4, picked up Johnny’s bag. It was great fun. For those who can remember, a few years later….in 1986 Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at age 46 for is final major championship….and whom was there in the Butler Cabin to present him the green jacket this time….Jim Nantz… his caddy at our event a few years earlier, now working nationally for CBS sports. I bumped into Jim in an airport not too long after the green jacket presentation and hinted to him that somehow I should share in his career success for that caddie opportunity.
Because of my employment at Park Meadows, it being a Jack Nicklaus golf course…a few years later, I along with other Nicklaus golf course professionals was invited to Florida to participate in a Nicklaus organization event that included a small golf tournament and then a banquet at the Nicklaus home. This again is where keeping things in perspective was apparent to me. While at Jacks home, I was looking in his trophy room, what a site to see; his Master’s trophies, PGA Championship trophies, US Open and British Open Trophies among many others; numerous photographs and articles on his wall and shelves, all of it chronicling his career. However, on one wall there was a spot light on a particular photograph; I walked over to the photo and it was a picture of Jack with his son on his shoulders…walking in front of a bunker. On the photograph the sports writer had written…Jack, I wanted to give you something that I knew would be special and you would appreciate more than anything else. This picture was the focal point of his room. Jack Nicklaus kept things in perspective.
So here we all are, in three days, only one of you will be crowned the 2012 Utah State Amateur Champion. To get to the field of 32 in this competition is a great accomplishment; again you all are to be congratulated. And you all will go away with memories of this event, what you could have maybe done different. And for the champion a goal reached, and what doors potentially it may open for you as it did for me. Keep things in prospective, it’s only a game…and yes a great game at that.
In closing I would like to leave you with a quote which defines a true winner:
The Winner-is always part of the answer; The Loser-is always part of the problem; The Winner-always has a program; The Loser-always has an excuse; The Winner-says “Let me do it for you;” The Loser-says “That’s not my job;” the Winner-sees an answer for every problem; The Loser-sees a problem for every answer; The Winner-sees a green near every bunker; The Loser-sees two or three bunkers near every green; The Winner-says, “It may be difficult but it’s possible; “The Loser says, “it may be possible but it’s too difficult.” BE A WINNER…no matter what you do.
Today, and in the days ahead for those who continue… enjoy the moment…it too will pass so quickly, but the memories will last a life time. I wish the best of luck to you all and again congratulations for coming this far.