In most cases when a father takes his son into the family business, the boy may start in the mail room, but everyone knows the scion is on a fast track to the corner office. Olin Browne, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and the 2011 U.S. Senior Open champion, passed the keys to the executive washroom to his son Olin Jr. the day he made the decision to turn pro. As the younger Browne quickly learned, his executive washroom these days usually is situated between a green and a tee in a portable toilet on a golf course where he’s grinding out pars while occasionally reveling in a birdie and being depressed by a bogey. This past week, Browne Jr. was grinding it out at Sebring’s Deer Run, the flagship track of Sun ‘n Lake G&CC, a golf-active community in Central Florida. The carrot being dangled in front of the 120 players was 20 full exemptions on PGA Tour Latinoamerica, a circuit that comfortably rests under the big Tour’s umbrella. Those who finish in the top five on its money list will be fully exempt on the Web.com Tour, while sixth through 10th places are exempt into the final of Web.com qualifying school. That’s it. This is one of those tournaments where the purse is a hope and a prayer. Browne, like 119 other starters, really appreciates the chance. “If things don’t work out here I’ll find somewhere to play,” Browne said. “Last year, I played various mini-tours, one tournament on the Canadian Tour. I played several tournaments on the Hooters Tour and the Minor League mini-tour in South Florida. “The reason I’m trying to get on this Tour, as I will the Canadian Tour, is it’s important to have playing status somewhere and you can show that you’ve had a decent year and made some money, but if you miss the first stage, the whole year has been a failure.” This year’s group will be the first to not have a chance to grab the brass ring of a PGA Tour card, as the traditional Q School process now detours through the Web.com Tour. “It would be great to qualify for the Web.com Tour,” Browne said. “But if I don’t (qualify for) the Latinoamerica Tour, I’ll have to make decisions on whether or not to fly up for the regional Web.com qualifiers. It would depend on where I stood on this money list.” What special knowledge has Dad imparted to make the transition to the corner office of the family business? “Play better,” the son said with a grin. “If I want to get to another level, play better. That will get you results. Never stop trying to play better. You can’t take it for granted. Play better.” Right now Browne is loving life. “I’ve been to some great places, played some great golf courses,” he said. “I just need to start making some money.” And if this golf thing shouldn’t work? “My mom’s an attorney and I’ve always been interested in the law,” he said. There’s a chance Plan B might have popped into Browne’s mind when he was called back to the course to complete the final three holes of his tournament with the third round having been suspended due to darkness. While medalist Jhared Hack added to his lead to finish at 12-under par for the week, Browne finished bogey-bogeybirdie to miss the Top 20 by two strokes. “I played well,” he said, “I just didn’t finish well.”
When the USGA announced its decision to end the men’s and women’s Amateur Public Links Championships after the 2014 events, bells and sirens sounded around the country warning of the potential abolishment of state public links championships that by and large have been very popular events. “Since there’s no connection between the USGA and the FSGA events, I can’t foresee any change in our schedule,” said Florida State Golf Association executive director Jim Demick. “The state events aren’t used as qualifiers for the national championships, so there’s no real reason to make any changes. Here in Florida we have very healthy competitions and I don’t see any harm in continuing them.” Demick added that the abolishment of the national public links championships has been discussed for a while now. “Prior to 1979, there was a need for the public links championships,” he said. “I don’t think that many people are aware of the fact that prior to 1979, a golfer couldn’t play in the U.S. Amateur championships unless he or she was a member of a golf club. Thus the formation of the Public Links championships. “In truth, the qualification for the public links has always been cloudy. If a player’s father had playing privileges at a private club, that player was ineligible. If the entrant was a collegiate player, he or she couldn’t use the school course except during the season. I don’t think there’s a college program that would deny a player access to the home course at any time. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. Nationally, it just didn’t make sense to continue.” The USGA has replaced the men’s and women’s Public Links Championships with the U.S. men’s and women’s Four-Ball Championships.