The Dirt on Brad Bryant
Brad Bryant will hear the words “defending champion” umpteen times this week. He’ll never get sick of them. When those words have described you only three times in your golf career, you appreciate them more than most. When you’ve come within a stroke of hearing them time and time again, you cherish them when they’re uttered. Bryant will be a happy camper as he defends his title in the Toshiba Classic, a Champions Tour event at the Newport Beach Country Club this week. For threerounds, his first tee shot will be accompanied by those precious words. “As for last year, there is absolutely no question in my mind that the Toshiba tournament was the diving board that sprung me through the year,” Bryant said. “Something happened on those last eight holes – I made fivebirdies on those last eight holes. It was like my world changed. Last year was by far my best year. Both my banker and my wife really liked it, so that was good.” Bryant knows he let a couple more chances to be the defending champion of tournaments slip away, not that he let it consume him. “I had a couple of chances where I could have done better,” Bryant said. “Kansas City is one that stands out. I finished third there, and I made a couple of mistakes there on Sunday with my ball-striking and I got a little impatient. “Last year could have been a little better. However, when you make one million-seven, don’t complain. It was a great year. For me, it was a banner year.” Of course, every year is a fun year for Bryant. His younger brother, Bart (who already has a pair of top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year), is eightyears younger. They’ve inspired one another to do well. Bart has battled through injuries, as has Brad. Brad loved winning at the Toshiba Classic, but nothing felt better than watching his brother win on the PGA Tour. “The three victories I’ve had were amazing, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had quite the experience I had watching my brother win at Texas (2004),” Brad Bryant said. “After all he had been through, I got to be there and stand there and congratulate him as he came off the 18th green. It was amazing. “You won’t find anyone who will say a bad thing about Bart, so in that regard, we’re very different,” added Brad Bryant, laughing. When Bart won for the first time in 2004, at age 41, he inspired Brad, then 50, to find his groove on the golf course again. Brad Bryant has a sense of humor, too. That’s why he went with the flow when former PGA Tour player Gary McCord, who also plays on the Champions Tour, gave him the nickname “Dr. Dirt.” McCord said he thought Bryant looked like a guy he saw on a gas commercial, hence the name. Other players began to use the nickname, too, so Bryant embraced it. How could he not? A locker room attendant once told him he respected him so much that he was going to call him “Dr. Dirt” too. He even had “Dirt” stitched on his golf bag, where a player’s name belongs. But not everyone thought it was funny. A California doctor with a landscaping business known as “Dr. Dirt” threatened to sue. That was OK. He liked the sound of “defending champion” better anyway. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Bryant, 52, said his kids liked it, too. All of a sudden, his 15-year-old didn’t mind hanging out with him again. He turned pro in 1976 and played his first full season on the PGA Tour in 1980. Fifteen years later, he finally won the 1995 Walt Disney Classic. Bryant won on the Champions Tour in just his 27th start. Not even two months after winning the Toshiba, he won the Regions Charity Classic. Toshiba set the stage for a splendid year of golf, the best of his career. He was in contention to win several more times, too. He had four second-place finishes, a third-place finish and 10 top-10 finishes in all. Three of his second-place finishes followed the Toshiba victory.