Conner Brown, who has had an interest in golf since he was two years old, capped his Fall 2019 golf season by advancing to the 2019 TSSAA State Golf Tournament. Brown, a 10th grader at The Webb School, placed fifth with 144 in the two-day tournament on Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at Willow Brook Golf Club in Manchester, Tenn.
It was Brown's third attempt at advancing from the region tournament to state. As an eighth grader, he missed the opportunity by two shots and as a ninth grader by one shot.
Competitive golf and winning tournaments is not new to Brown. He claimed his first victory at five years old winning the Jr. Golf Club Championship at River Bend, his home course. He still recalls it – a two-day tournament and "I won with a chip in on the last hole of the day." He would repeat the win four times between the ages of 5 and 10.
Brown began his connection to golf because his father, David Brown, played a lot. "He'd take me out there when he played, and I'd watch him." He received his first set of clubs at two. "That kind of got me interested. I took my first lesson at five."
Since that time and because he lives near the course, "Golf has mostly been an everyday thing especially during the summer. I try to get out there as much as I can. If it's light enough (after school practices or matches), I play a couple of holes; hit a few balls."
When he was younger, Brown played other sports, too. "I've played basketball and baseball and used to be really good at baseball, but I knew I had a shot to play college golf. That's probably my main goal; that's definitely what I want to do. Being able to play golf the rest of my life is my goal." It was ninth grade when he became a one-sport athlete honing his natural athletic talent and golf skills.
Brown's focus paid off. As an eighth grader, he was named the 2017 Sneds Tour Player of the Year–Boys 13 and Under Masters. The tour is sponsored by Nashville native and PGA Tour professional Brandt Snedeker. In 2018, he competed in the Kids Teen World Championship Golf Tournament 14-year-old division at Pinehurst, N.C., and placed 21st in a field of 140 golfers. "This year in August, my mom took me to Orlando, Fla., to the American Jr. Golf Association Tournament (national tournament for 15-year-olds and under), and I finished top 10. It's great if a golfer finishes in the top half."
Like many "serious" golfers, Brown recalls all of the courses. "My mother does not know how I do it. She can name any course I've played, and I can tell her what each hole looks like," he said.
"I think the strength of my game is my long game – my driver and long irons. Driving is the best part of my game. I've always been one of the longest players, even though I weigh 120 pounds," he said. "One of the other golfers always says, 'you're so skinny, but you hit it so hard.' I'm usually really a good tee-to-green player."
Brown accepts all aspects of golf, including its reputation as a "gentleman's" game. As a Webb golfer, he is especially attuned to the importance of honor and character as those are core Webb tenets. "Golf is just a game where you're trusted to tell the truth. That's one of the rules of the game. I could go out and drop a ball – but golf is a game where you can establish your good character." He added that it would not mean very much to win a tournament knowing that you cheated.
While it might seem amusing for someone as young as this 15-year-old to be giving advice to "younger golfers, he's earned some of the stature with diligence and practice. He'd tell prospective golfers, "Before getting involved in golf, understand how challenging it is. You have to be patient – you just can't rush it." He added, "I've seen kids playing for five years who get nowhere. You have to be patient. Golf is a big mental game -- more of a mental game than a physical game. It's not always about how far you hit it. When you're down, losing or lost, you've just got to stick through it, because anything can happen." He continued, "It's easy to get frustrated. What I tell myself when I'm frustrated is 'it was just a bad hole.' I tell myself, 'I know I'm better than this. I can make a birdie if I stay with it. You never know what's going to happen.'"