Ironman of the Irons

Mark Brooks is no stranger to golf. In fact, he says, “I chose golf, I certainly had designs on maybe doing something else if golf didn’t work out, but it has worked out for me and it is an interesting game.”


Mark Brooks plays on the Champions Tour of the Professional Golfers Association. Brooks has seven wins on the PGA Tour, including one major win, the 1996 PGA Championship. He turned became a professional in 1983, and he holds the record for most career starts on tour: over 800 and counting.


“I went straight to the PGA Tour. I never played any other tours around the world. I did not have to play the ‘mini tours,’ you know, where you’re scraping by. I went straight to ‘the show.’ You have to qualify. It’s a big qualifier. A six-round golf tournament, played in the fall, and it’s been that way for quite a few years,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to get my first shot right of college.”


Brooks says playing with professional golf players right out of college helped him to realize his own shortcomings and the need for learning how to improve his play.


“Once I got on tour, I basically saw that everything about my game needed to be improved.  I had a pretty good swing but I needed these things to change. I made some changes after about five years of struggling, trying to stay on tour, you know, pretty much just kind of gutting it out, playing on instinct.  And within probably four or five months, I saw some dramatic improvement in my ball striking, which, you know, it’s how close you hit it to the hole and hit fairways and all that.  And after about five years on tour, things kind of clicked.”


Brooks says although physical abilities matter when playing, the game of golf tests a player’s mental stamina, but he says the game has changed.


“One of the things we’re seeing, the equipment gotten so much better, the golf ball itself, which is integral to playing the game, the ball has changed quite a bit in the last 20 or 30 years. It goes straighter. It goes further. It fights the elements better as far as the wind. Technologies kind of entered the game in a strong way in the last 15 or 20 years, so it’s allowed a different style of athlete, I’m going to say, to do really well in golf,” he says. “So, we’re seeing a little bit of a change, unfortunately, in my opinion, with golf and the characteristics of a person that make you probably be a good player, not a great player. And so, I think a little bit of the mental part has been taken out. They have to figure out how to make golf become more of testing a player’s mental ability other than just a few weeks of the year when you turn on the Masters or U.S. Open. Golf is supposed to be a game of, you know, testing oneself against oneself. The golf course is just an element that’s there to bring those things out.”


Brooks still plays on the tour. He says now that he is older, the toughest challenge is dealing with less than perfect play. 


“You want to go out there and produce shots that you know you’re capable of, but you know when you’re in your prime years, you can go reproduce a shot eight or nine out of 10 times. Three in a row is easy. As you get older, it is far more difficult to have your body repeat those things. In my opinion, your mind wants your body to do certain things and sometimes your body doesn’t listen. I’ve had knee issue, shoulder issue, you know, back issues, herniated disc, so playing mediocre golf doesn’t feel good.

As I’ve gotten older, I think it’s not just patience, it’s just I just don’t enjoy going out there playing really crappy golf. And I think I’m not alone in that regard.”


Mark Brooks holds a significant record in the Pro Golfers Association: most career starts.


“I’ve played over 800 tournaments that are just the PGA tour alone, and when you start doing the math, you just go, ‘That’s insane.’ I mean, if you play 20 tournaments a year, that’s 40 years. It’s ridiculous,” Brooks says.  “So, I would say that’s probably my greatest achievement.”


Brooks says choosing a time to retire from golf has been difficult.


“I had a shot at something pretty big in the early 2000s. I said at the time I would retire if I won that week and I was dead serious and I didn’t win.” So, to my body’s demise and my family, I am still doing it because I did not win that playoff. Retiring is difficult. Golf sort of wanes you off. You are weaned off the competitive circuit. And then I’d love to spend the rest my life, the next 10 or 15 years doing television and teaching good players because I think that’s what I have the most experience with, and the most expertise in.”