Golf goes nuclear

John Brown fist pumps after a nice shot a Aroostook Golf Club (Matt Tidcombe/AQ)

Standing on the tee box of the second hole at the Algonquin Golf Club in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, can be quite daunting. There’s a slight dogleg right with trees blocking any chance of hitting a draw shot and a big pond sitting on the right side of the fairway ready to swallow any loose shots.

So that’s why John Brown sits atop the slightly raised fairway, tucked up behind a tree in case any wayward shots off the tee come in his direction.

But he’s there for one reason; to act as a rules official.

“I thought rules was one area I’d like to be involved in as I’d been involved in tournament golf for so long,” he said. “I felt like I should know the rules, find out what I didn’t know and then apply it.”

In 2001, Brown got his level four certification and is regularly seen at many New Brunswick events, whether provincial tournaments or club tournaments.

Even as a rules official though, Brown sees the need for the rules of golf to be more basic, saying “it’d be nice if the rules were somewhat simplified.”

Brown has been involved in golf his whole life, mainly because his father owned a driving range when he was a child.

“I grew up at the driving range, cutting grass, picking up golf balls amongst other things. My father owned the facility and also taught lessons. At one point I decided to hit balls and wanted to play,” he explained.

Brown grew up in Richmond, B.C, and Green Acres Golf Club was across the street from where he lived so he spent a vast amount of his time on the course. As he grew older, he began to play at Point Grey Golf and Country Club which is located in Vancouver.

After growing up in Vancouver, Brown moved to Ontario in 1974. He would spend five years there before moving to New Brunswick in 1979 where he now lives in Rothesay. However, from January through April, Brown spends his time at his second home in Gibsons, B.C.

Even to this day, Brown remains an avid golfer. He won the New Brunswick Senior Men’s event last year, calling it “very rewarding,” and over his career has won numerous titles.

Brown describes his playing career as successful, but admits he couldn’t get it done on the National stage. However, provincially, Brown has been extremely successful. Some of his successes include winning the 1989 New Brunswick Amateur, making five Willingdon Cup teams, a Mid-Amateur team and three senior teams.

His career also includes “several club championships and some invitational tournament” victories which were spread over his time in B.C, Ontario and New Brunswick.

With his success on the golf course, Brown says his favourite moment of his playing career was when he played in the 1975 British Amateur at Hoylake in Liverpool, England.

“I won my first round match,” he recalls. “I beat a guy who had been on the Walker Cup team in the US, but back in the 30s and 40s. I ended up winning in overtime on the nineteenth hole,” he proudly says.

Brown is retired now but spent his entire working career in the nuclear program. He graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in chemical engineering.

“I started with research at Chalk River in Ontario which is the reactor that was responsible for isotope production. But then I moved to nuclear power in 1979 which is what brought me from Ontario to New Brunswick.”

Brown was originally going to go to Argentina to commission a nuclear station being built there, but too many delays and problems made Brown to decide to head to Point Lepreau in New Brunswick, which is where he stayed until retiring in 2006.

Despite his retirement, Brown still has a large passion for the field he worked in, as he works in a consulting position for two or three months a year, where he helps in the training of control operators and testing facilities.

Brown says it’s a challenging but very interesting field to work in, adding that “to some people’s surprise, it’s a very clean place to work.”

As Brown continues to find the time to enter as many tournaments as he can while still acting as a rules official, it’s about finding the right balance.

But with Browns continual work in the nuclear field, there’s plenty enough to keep him busy year round.

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