EAST LANSING – Steve Braun, a Flint native, current Charlevoix resident and member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame (MGHOF) learned a lot from his father Philip.
“He believed if you are not helping your community then you are part of the problem,” Braun said. “Giving back was the way he thought things should be in life.”
Braun, 76, who has volunteered and served the game of golf in multiple ways for six decades, was presented with the 2021 Distinguished Service Award by the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) Monday.
The presentation was part of activities surrounding the GAM’s Annual Meeting, which included virtual presentations and golf later in the day at Forest Akers West Golf Course.
“Steve did it all as a governor, rules official, chairman of the championship committee, quintessential volunteer for the GAM and has always been an articulate spokesman for golf,” said longtime GAM governor and current chairman of the communications committee Terry Moore who nominated Braun for the award.
“I was so impressed when he was president of the GAM and he helped lead the Youth on Course initiative. I’ve known him for over 30 years, first when I was with Michigan Golfer (magazine editor) and Steve was instrumental in leading the national award-winning Flint Junior Golf Association (FJGA). When he said Youth on Course might be the most significant initiative for junior golf that he had seen in his lifetime, I thought that was quite a statement for a guy involved in junior golf leadership for so long.”
Braun was the GAM president in 2016, the same year he was elected to the MGHOF and he became a PGA professional at storied Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix as a second career after partnering with his father and seven others in an insurance business for several years.
Along the way he played golf at a competitive level and found an entrance into serving golf as well.
He almost doubled the FJGA membership while serving as the executive director from 1975-’85, worked for the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) as a tournament director and received the AJGA’s national service honor (Digger Smith Award) in 1992.
He was also a standout amateur, including being the runner-up in the 1979 Michigan Amateur Championship to Pete Green at Belvedere where he would later serve as head professional for 12 years before retiring.
Belvedere presented him with an honorary lifetime membership upon retirement, he was inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2015, and an FJGA tournament (Steve Braun Cup) is named in his honor.
He remains active as a GAM volunteer rules official and with the GAM Foundation board where he has helped develop the foundation’s involvement with its successful Youth on Course program that makes it possible for junior golfers to play golf for $5 or less at participating courses in the state.
“I came to the PGA and became a professional later in life and didn’t reach leadership in that organization, but the GAM provided me an opportunity to give back to the game as a volunteer,” he said. “I’m appreciative of the governors who felt I deserved this. I know that anybody that is involved with the GAM is trying to do the best for golf. It’s very nice to win this award. It makes me feel like I’ve been able to have some impact, and I know the GAM and golf have been a very big part of my life.”
Chris Whitten, the GAM’s executive director who made the presentation, called Braun a strong advocate of the GAM and golf, a standout volunteer for the tournament division and a first-class representative of Belvedere.
“He has served on the foundation board and helped us launch Youth on Course into the great year we had last year,” he said. “I think junior golf resonates with him because you are reaching young people, but even beyond that he wants golf to be inclusive and available to anybody no matter their circumstances in life. He’s interested in growing the game for all people, which is an important view that I appreciate about him.”
Braun said his favorite memory of working with the GAM coincides with what he feels was his biggest mistake serving as a volunteer.
“The last time we had the (Michigan) Amateur here (Belvedere, 2014) I was caught up as chairman of the tournament in bringing in Dan Pohl for a Sweet 16 Dinner, and of course it was on the same day when we cut the field for match play and we always have the playoff,” he said.
“Of course, we have a playoff that night and daylight is slipping away, the timing of the dinner is going to be thrown off and I get asked by Ken (Hartmann, senior tournament director for the GAM) what I think. Ken is thinking we should probably call it because of darkness, and of course I said I think we can do it.”
Braun remembers the golfers wanted to do it, and people started lining up by the tee on No. 9 and lighting up their cell phones to help provide light while others pulled cars in the parking lot behind the green and turned their lights on.
“I was standing dead behind the guys on the tee, and of course one of our great past champions, Randy Lewis, was in the playoff,” he said. “Randy hit a tee shot and I couldn’t see it at all and I realized my idiocy. I knew I had messed up pushing for it. We shouldn’t have made those guys play when they couldn’t see. I was really happy later when Randy told me he could see his lie and it didn’t bother him, but I still feel bad about the guys who got eliminated in the dark.”
In photo: Steve Braun, left, was presented the Distinguished Service Award by GAM Executive Director Chris Whitten.