WEB.COM TOUR INSIDER
Branshaw, 49, finds new energy in Q-School quest
November 29, 2018
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- David Branshaw played three PGA TOUR seasons in the mid-2000s, and he's not giving up on a return. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
Age is just a number. David Branshaw knows this intimately.
The 49-year-old is the oldest person to advance to Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament. He was the oldest person at his Second Stage site, too (where he T14, on the number for advancement). And you can probably guess that, yes, Branshaw was the oldest person at his First Stage site as well.
But life, Branshaw says, is just getting started.
“I know I’m twice the age of most of the guys out here, but I don’t feel it,” he says. “I wish I could hit it as far as they did because it would be a lot easier, but I’m happy with my game.”
The affable Branshaw, from upstate New York, speaks softly and with an identifiable accent. He laughs, mostly in spite of himself, at almost everything. He waxes poetic about a time gone by – he started playing the Web.com Tour in 1997, the year before 2018 Player of the Year Sungjae Im was born – but he still acts like a kid on occasion. Especially, according to his swing coach Justin Sheehan, when it comes to his daily intake of double-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
But despite the self-deprecating laughs, Branshaw knows this opportunity at Final Stage is no joke.
The two-time Web.com Tour winner played three PGA TOUR seasons in the mid-2000s after turning professional in 1991. He returned to the Web.com Tour in 2008, finishing 26th on the money list ($3,000 behind the No. 25 spot), and tried to get back to the TOUR over the next three seasons.
But his money-list position got progressively worse, and he admits he got into “a rut” in 2011 and 2012 when he says golf just wasn’t fun.
“It took me a while to get out of that funk,” he explains.
How he managed to move past that disappointing time in his life? Branshaw points to two factors.
He recharged and refocused, and he found a swing coach in Tampa, Florida – Sheehan – who he says has helped him make golf fun again.
“He’s the classic old-time pro,” says Sheehan. “He’s had a little bit more acceptance of where he is with his golf game and his life. I’ve never asked him directly, but I think (getting older) has freed him up and he’s just let go. He’s almost 50.”
Sheehan laughs when he recalls one of the first times they met. Branshaw had 30-odd golf clubs on the driving range and “what seemed like” 14 different training aids.
“He was just out there, and I don’t even know if ‘searching’ is the right word, because David still hit it really good, but he was just trying too much,” says Sheehan. “The first piece of the puzzle was, ‘Hey, can we get a little clarity on what you’re trying to do,’ and not just hang out at the golf course and try a bunch of different things all the time. That was step one.”
The other positive beacon in Branshaw’s life has been his wife, Catherine.
The two met in late 2002 and began dating the following year. Branshaw says she has been a big supporter of him and the pursuit of a golfer’s dream.
“She’s pumped; she wants me to get out of the house,” he says with a big laugh.
Sheehan says he sometimes has to rein Branshaw in, when they begin to really needle each other about practicing and Branshaw starts to complain.
One time, referring to a nearby public course with yellow driving-range balls that float when they’re hit into a pond, Sheehan asked, “What would happen if you just went over there and practiced? Where do you think you’d be right now?”
Branshaw thought about that question for a minute, Sheehan says, and responded succinctly: “I’d have full status.”
It was then, Sheehan says, his pupil had a moment of clarity with respect to his future.
“Whether he knows it or not, it just changed his mind a little bit from chopping, beating balls, complaining, and just got focused on a few things,” he says.I know I'm twice the age of most of the guys out here, but I don't feel it.
Branshaw isn’t worried about his modest driving distance as compared to his current Web.com Tour peers – especially since most are half his age.
When he began his Web.com Tour career, he played alongside Bubba Watson, who was already long for his day (and remains one of the TOUR’s longest).
“It’s just the way it is. You hit it further than some guys, some guys hit it further than you, but these younger kids come out here and they’re all hitting it long,” he says. “But until they make a golf course that’s 10,000 yards, I’m not going to worry about distance.”
So with a carefree attitude, a robust support system and a rejuvenated on-course approach, is there anything that’s bothering Branshaw these days?
He’s in good shape for a 49-year-old, but he can’t escape Father Time’s impact on his body.
After hurting his stomach three weeks ago, Branshaw hurt his back over Thanksgiving. It’s a bit of a medical marvel, he says, but he’s been working with a rehab doctor in Florida who practices the NeuFit method – it gives direct-current stimulation to muscles – and he’ll be able to tee it up at Final Stage.
“It is unreal,” he says of the therapy. “If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t be able to play Final Stage. No way I’d be out there.”
As he tees it up at Final Stage, Branshaw will have some good vibes: his first Web.com Tour win came at the same club – Whirlwind GC in Chandler, Arizona.
It’ll be an emotionally charged week for Branshaw, regardless of where he ends up on the leaderboard. After Second Stage, he says, he recalled how during the trophy presentation in 2002 he looked up to see his parents supporting him, along with a friend of his who has since passed away.
The memory, he admits, caught him off guard.
But while it is indeed one more week when Branshaw is going to have to look at some numbers, it’s something that, like his age, he’s not going to worry about.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there, and regardless of how I play, it’s going to be fun,” he says. “I’m having fun playing again. If you’re having fun and playing solid, you’re going to do well.”