Sedgefield head pro living the dream

by Ogi Overman

You’ll forgive Rocky Brooks if he feels like he’s living a charmed existence these days. First there was that head pro job at Sedgefield Country Club — not bad work if you can get it — but then along came the goose that laid the golden egg in the form of a PGA Tour event at his home course.

“This is a golf pro’s dream,” he said, the grin spreading across his tanned and handsome face, “to host a Tour event. It’s hard to explain and hard to contain my excitement. I know a lot of pros who aspire to be in a place that hosts a PGA event, and here I am.”

While Brooks was not in the direct decision-making loop that brought the Wyndham Championship from Forest Oaks back to Sedgefield after a 31-year absence, he was kept apprised of developments by those who were.

“My job was to stay out of the way,” he quipped. “Mark [Brazil] and Bobby [Long] told me as much as they could, but you’d also hear these rumors and wild stories. But once it looked like the tournament was going to move, they brought me in the loop more, since I would have some added responsibilities leading up to and especially during the event.”

If fans spot the affable course pro this week, chances are it will be in or near the pro shop, which he runs. Rather than construct a merchandise tent on the course, organizers opted to use the existing pro shop in the Sedgefield clubhouse and stock it with Wyndham gear, manufactured by Ashcroft.

“I’ll spend the bulk of my time in there, making sure everybody’s getting their needs met,” he said. “I’ll also help with player services and bag storage and am in charge of shipping and receiving. Plus, my staff of three assistant pros and I oversee the driving range, so we’ll be spread throughout the club.”

Meeting people’s needs is part and parcel of Brooks’ job description as head pro, the only difference this week is the greater numbers.

“It seems like we have a tournament of some sort every day,” he smiled, “but the key is you don’t try any less whether it’s twelve or a hundred and twelve. Whether it’s a member-guest event or a ladies nine-hole tournament or a PGA Tour event, you make sure it’s all done right, down to providing a scorecard and pencils with erasers in the carts. It’s all about setting standards and maintaining those standards.”

The unassuming Brooks credits most of his ascension up the club pro ladder to his old boss at Colonial Country Club in Thomasville, Mike O’Bryant. So much so, in fact, that he and wife Debbie named their son, Dylan Michael Brooks, after him.

“He’s like a second father to me,” said Brooks. “He recommended me for every job I’ve ever gotten. Mike says he never got me a job but I don’t know if I would have ever gotten one without his help. I won’t ever be able to repay him for all he’s done for me.”

Brooks’ first head pro job was at Meadowgreens Country Club in Eden. From there he moved to Sapona Country Club in Lexington, where he stayed for seven years, and has been at Sedgefield for six years.

“I don’t even think about going anyplace else,” he admitted. “I honestly can’t explain how lucky I am to be here, and I can’t imagine ever leaving.” Then his patented sense of humor kicks in and he adds, “Of course, if Augusta National calls, I’m outta here.”

As a student of the game, both from a player’s and historian’s perspective, the 44-year-old pro is keenly aware of the lore surrounding Sedgefield and the old GGO.

“When you think about all the legends who have walked this course — Hogan, Nelson, Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player and on and on — you can’t help but feel the sense of history. I hate to sound clich’-ish, but imagining Donald Ross walking this very course with a set of blueprints under his arm gives me chill bumps.”

Old-timers will remember that when the old GGO called Sedgefield home, the 9’s were inverted. Brooks cited three reasons why they are not now.

“The main reason,” he noted, “was that Ross designed [hole] eighteen to be eighteen, period. Eight and nine are too easy to be good finishing holes. And in this day of corporate golf, you don’t see that many clubhouses in the background as they walk up 18; you see skyboxes and luxury tents, so that’s not an issue anymore. Then there’s just more room to put bleachers and skyboxes and good vantage points around fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, what they’re calling the ‘sweet spot,’ that works better than if they were six, seven and eight.”

The easy-going Brooks doesn’t appear to be a guy who is bothered by pressure but does admit that the tourney’s move to Sedgefield puts it all in a different perspective.

“I wouldn’t say there’s added pressure,” said the Atlantic Christian grad and member of the college’s golf team, “but there is pressure. There’s a lot riding on making a good impression; you want to send everybody home feeling good. We know there are a lot of people watching us now, and we’re going to do everything we can to make a good impression on every fan, every pro, every tour official, every volunteer, every media representative. In fact, we want to make a great first impression, not a good one.”

Kenneth James “Rocky” Brooks knows that you only get one chance to make that first impression, and he’s making the most of it.

“I have to pinch myself sometimes,” he grinned. “Then I realize, hey, there’s work to be done.”