It’s 30 minutes from Carnoustie across the River Tay to Scotscraig Golf Club. Unless you’re Brandel Chamblee, in which case the winding journey takes about 15 years.
On July 23, the day after the 147th British Open at Carnoustie concludes, the Golf Channel analyst plans to tee it up at Scotscraig in an effort to qualify for the Senior Open, held that week in St. Andrews. Scotscraig is where he qualified for the 1995 Open at the Old Course, adding a note of nostalgia to his quest.
“Even though I missed the cut miserably, it was still a very memorable week. I tied Arnold Palmer!” he said with a laugh. “Now that meant something in 1960, not quite as much in 1995.”
The pint-sized provocateur quit the PGA Tour in 2003 (above image) after 15 years and hasn’t played competitively in more than a decade. He turns 56 on July 2.
“I just thought I have a five-year window to give it some energy, and no better place than St. Andrews to fall in love with professional golf all over again,” he said.
That he fell out of love with the pro game owed more to life than to form. He lost a newborn son, Braeden, in 2000, and his absence was taking a toll at home. One night in late 2003 he was helping his oldest son, Brandel Jr., build a boat for a Boy Scouts project. When his son talked excitedly about how they would race it the next day, Chamblee told him he’d be going back to work in the morning.
“Well thanks for stopping by,” the 6-year-old said innocently.
It cut Chamblee to the core. He spent that night drinking Scotch on the porch. On his table was a contract offer from Golf Channel. The next morning he signed it and fed it into a fax machine. His Tour career was over.
“I thought it would save my marriage. I thought I’d be home more,” he said. “My heart wasn’t in it. The Tour became a lonely place for me. I didn’t burn for it anymore. My friends were all jealous of my life, and I was jealous of theirs. They’d be like, ‘You’re playing the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, well you’re coaching your kid’s basketball team. I’ll trade you.’ ”
The marriage didn’t last, but his three kids thrived. So too did his TV career. Now, at an age when most Tour golfers see buzzards circling overhead, he has the itch to go play again. He says it’s less about accomplishment than the experience.
“It’s an experiment for me. I’m not under any illusions. I don’t have any great expectations. I just want to see what I’m capable of, and what I’m not capable of,” he said. “If I played great that would be fun. It’s not like I’m going to quit my job.”
Nor is he likely to lose sleep over whatever shots the Twitter commandos will take if he plays poorly.
“The second you start thinking about that, the dragons of expectations will just char your soul,” he said flatly. “That’s an awful way to live your life, worrying about what other people say about you.”
Even if it’s Tiger Woods? Chamblee knows his friends dream of one day seeing Woods analyze the swing of his nemesis, criticizing excessive forward shaft lean or a dipping head.
“I think it would be funny,” he said. “Look, I’m a huge Tiger Woods fan. I’m quite sure he doesn’t like me. I’ve admired his golf. He doesn’t quit. He’s too busy to worry about what I’m doing.”
But if you pop up on his screen?
“He should take a shot at me,” Chamblee said, laughing. “I’ve been taking shots at him for years.”
Golfweek, July 3, 2018.