The Way of an Eagle

by Bob Darden,
P. J. Richardson,
Robert Darden

 

 

 

Brad Bryant

They affectionately call him "Dr. Dirt," and the sad-eyed man with the big dimples is one of the most popular pros on the PGA Tour. Period. And it isn't because of his golfing prowess, either-although he's had a wildly successful career, with more than $2 million in winnings, despite some debilitating injuries.

But Bryant was probably the guy that inspired the phrase, "Nice guys finish second." He's had incredible seven second-place finishes since 1982, including the Kmart Grater Greensboro open and the Doral-Ryder Open, both in 1994. He was the only non-winner invited to the Tour Championship, finishing one stroke behind the Mark McCumber-Fuzzy Zoeller playoff. Bryant then turned around and won the unofficial JCPenny Classic (with Marta Figueras-Dotti). His sizzling 1994 ended by finishing first in the year-end PGA Tour Statistics in birdies with 397.

Maybe it would have been more appropriate if he'd finished second!

"My father is a Baptist preacher and pastored his first church when he was seventeen. So, of course, I've been going to church since I was born. I grew up in the church. My dad (W.H. "Dub" Bryant) went to Southwestern Seminary, so we lived in Fort Worth for a time. He pastored two churches in central Texas before moving to New Mexico where he pastored a church for seventeen years.

We had a phenomenal time growing up, especially at the church in New Mexico. We had so many wonderful things happen. The people were great, and my dad was one of the best pastors I've ever known. He really understood what being a pastor was all about-he equipped the people, then got out of the way and let them do the work.

He's now the director of evangelism for North and South Dakota and Montana and works with the pastors there.

I was seven and a half when I met the Lord. It was really something. My mom said she was afraid for me to go to the school because I had to cross a couple streets, and she knew that I was really searching at the time! But even at seven and a half, I understood that Christ died for my sins, so I gave my life to Christ because that was the only way to go to heaven instead of hell! My dad got to baptize me, my brother, and my sister-so that was pretty neat too!

It wasn't until I became older that I really began to understand that God also had a plan for my life, more than just saving me from hell.

Since then, my life has had a lot of peaks and valleys, including some very emotional times. I had a very bad injury to my left shoulder for a while. But I have been fortunate because of the way my parents taught me and the way my parents lived. I never distrusted that God would take care of my family and me.

Plus, no matter what the state of my spiritual life is, I realize it's not up to me to be a saint. I can't do that; I can't be perfect.

In 1987, after I was hurt, I lost my playing privileges and was off the Tour for a year-and that was probably the best year my wife and I had. I slept in my own bed four straight months! That was the first time I'd done that since I was sixteen-and it's been that long since I've done it again! My wife and I really had problems to work through, but that enabled us to go back and work on the foundation of our marriage.

We've been married twenty years, and our marriage is better now than it was a year after we were married. We're finally beginning to understand each other better.

As for golf, I've had a bunch of seconds. I've played nearly twenty years without winning. Of course, every time someone writes an article about me, it begins, "Brad Bryant, who currently holds the record for the second-longest run on the Tour without a victory…"

But I know that when God is ready to let me win, or when I'm ready to win, it will happen. There have been times in my life when I was glad I didn't win because I would have done my testimony and my witness a great deal of harm. So when God is ready to use me in that way, He'll let me win. But I think I still need preparation to get me to the point that I can do that.

No matter where Sue and I have been, there's been one Scripture verse that we've always really believed is true. It says no matter what we have to face in this world-whatever pain or suffering or joy that we face in this world-it will not compare with the joy that we will have once we get to heaven and are with Christ (Rom. 8:18). It gives me a huge amount of satisfaction in life to know that no matter where I'm at, ultimately I know how all of this is going to come out-the battle had already been won.

Memorable Moment
I've been fortunate in that I've always know that God doesn't are if I'm the world's greatest golfer. I've never once worried that He was involved in my golf game. I don't think that's His responsibility. I go out and play to the best of my ability, and I try to live my life as best I can. Then it is up to God to take care of the rest. It's not whether I get good bounces or bad bounces-I figure that's just part of living.

I don't really have what I would call outstanding golf memories. I know when I got the ball on the green on the seventeenth hole in 1982 in the Players Championship, I was pretty happy. I had played very, very poorly that entire year, but I had led that tournament the whole way until Jerry Pate birdied the last two holes to beat me.

I still remember hitting the ball on the green, because if I could hit the ball and make a par, my career would be secure for another year. But if I missed the green and hit the ball into the water, there was a chance I wouldn't be secure for the next year.

But when I walked off the green, I had made $68,000 that week, and I thought, Gosh, I've done the best I could and I've provided for my family. And anyone who complains about making nearly seventy grand in a week ought to be shot! I don't think I'll ever forget that.

Conversely, I'll never forget losing a tournament in Canada in 1993, and how frustrated I was when I kept hitting good shots that kept turning out so badly. In the last seven holes, I hit three shots that I couldn't have hit any better. I hit great golf shots, but each time they turned up in the worst place possible on the holes.

Tip
I've always paid attention to my equipment, making sure that the shaft-the particular length and the weight of the golf club-fits my body. One of the biggest problems in golf is that amateurs have no idea how to fit themselves for equipment. They don't even think about it.

Through the years, everything has been toward swing weight, length, and that sort of stuff-which really doesn't matter. Swing weight is the static weight of something that you're going to use while it is in motion. That's really not a good measure of what you're doing. Instead, I think that you can take some measurements of yourself and find out pretty quickly what you need to do.

Most people, especially men, if they are barrel-chested, swing too far. If you're built like me-kind of thin in the chest and not real strong in the shoulders-you can take a pretty long backswing. But if you're big chested and you have strong shoulders, strong arms, and a strong back, you should take a very short backswing. Most people take the club back way too far. Most people use their legs way too much.

That is the number-one problem I see with amateur players. The thing I would tell them first is not to use their legs at all. Period. Their legs have to remain absolutely passive in the golf swing, and they have to learn to turn their chest and upper body. That is the number-one problem amateurs have.

Once you learn to do that, then you can easily fit clubs to your size. I think that most people play clubs a little bit too long and a little bit too heavy for them. When you swing a club, it becomes exponentially heavier because of the centrifugal force pulling on the head. All of a sudden you have something very heavy in motion that may have been very light when it was static. It is also something that is now uncontrollable.

Having too light a shaft makes the clubhead too heavy, which, when you swing it, increases that weight. People just can't control it.

That's the biggest problem they've had with graphite shafts. And that's why back in 1990, I tried to get the manufactures to build heavier graphite shafts. It took about two years before the Loomis company started building heavier shafts like I wanted. Now, of course, nearly everybody on the Tour who plays with graphite shafts is playing with shafts that are nearly the same weight as steel. They're much heavier than what the engineers originally envisioned.

So…learn to hit a golf ball without moving your knees. In fact, don't move your knees at all. Hey, if you can only hit the ball fifty yards, without moving your knees, that's great. And as you increase your distance, then begin to move your knees slightly.

Always remember that your knees only move as much as your shoulders move. They can never move farther. Most people move their knees considerably farther than they move their shoulders. They'll move their right knee to the right on their backswing, their left knee will come in, and both knees will get out from under the shoulders-and they lose the support in their golf swing.

The thing that has helped my game, and I'm probably one of the most improved swingers on the Tour right now, is that I learned to keep my knees underneath my shoulders throughout my swing. My shoulders and my upper body are always supported by my legs, and my balance remains good. As soon as you get off balance, you can't hit good golf shots.

Strangely enough, on one teaches much about balance.

The way to achieve balance is to stand with your spine fairly erect and straight-not curved-and then you get your knees under your shoulders. Don't get too bent over. If you get so bent over that your shoulders are closer to the ball than your knees, you'll be out of balance. The way your body is make, to hit a golf ball you need to stand where your knees are almost directly under your shoulders in a vertical position with your spine fully erect and straight. If you'll do that, you'll have good balance.

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