Steve Braun in Flint HOF

By Bill Khan | MLIVE 

Steve Braun had a golf career that he could justifiably look back upon with pride.

In high school, he played a major role as Flint Southwestern won back-to-back state Class A golf championships in 1962 and 1963. Braun was the Colts’ No. 2 player as a junior and the No. 1 player as a senior, finishing second in the state individually.

As an amateur golfer, Braun reached the finals of the 1979 Michigan Amateur, losing to 2 and 1 to four-time champion Peter Green.

“I was a field player who happened to putt well that week,” Braun said. “For me, it was a big deal. For him, it was nothing.”

That’s a modest assessment, because Braun was also the Flint City Amateur runner-up four times and the Flint Golf Club champion 10 times.

But while Braun had a playing career that most golfers would envy, he is even more proud of his other achievements in the sport. Because of Braun, countless youth golfers were exposed to the sport and had opportunities to pursue their dreams in golf.

It’s because of this work that Braun is entering the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Service inductee.

His resume for community service within the sport of golf is longer and even more impressive than his list of accomplishments as a player.

He helped grow the sport at the local level as director of the Flint Junior Golf Association and the national level as a tour director for the American Junior Golf Association.

Braun helped establish the Genesee County All-Star Classic, the Flint area’s premier golf tournament. As golf pro at Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix, he established the Charlevoix Community Junior Golf Association. He has raised money for the organization by playing 100 holes of golf in one day for donations.

Braun said that “by far” he is more proud of his work growing the sport of golf than he is of his own playing accomplishments.

“My dad was a very committed person to volunteerism in the Flint area,” Braun said. “He always told me that should be an important part of your life. I’m not sure I would’ve ever even got to do any of these things had it not been for Dick Daly. I’m not sure I would’ve been a good enough person to have gotten involved in this stuff if he hadn’t gotten me started, truthfully. People have done a lot more important things than what I’ve done in terms of being involved in the community. It got me started at a time when I needed something like that.”

Braun took over the FJGA in 1975 at a time when participation was beginning to wane.

“Dick said ‘Our enrollment has gone down three straight years. I wonder if you’d be interested in getting involved,'” Braun said. “If it hadn’t been for Dick, a lot of good things that have happened in my life wouldn’t have happened.

“The program grew considerably. I got PGA members involved. We went from 550 members to 1,100 by the time I left.”

Braun credited his own participation in FJGA for the success of himself and his Flint Southwestern teammates.

“I feel so lucky,” he said. “I played in Flint Junior Golf, so getting involved with the program was just a lucky way to be able to give back, as opposed to a lot of people who give back in a lot more difficult and wonderful ways. For me, it was easy. It wasn’t like I felt like I was doing anything special trying to give back to what meant so much to my life.”

Near the end of his tenure as FJGA director, Braun was able to get an AJGA event at the Flint Elks Club, bringing elite junior golf to the Flint area. The winner of the 1987 and 1988 Great Lakes Buick Junior was a kid from San Diego named Phil Mickelson, who played the event three times.

The tournament, now known as the Randy Wise Junior Open, is the longest-running non-major on the AJGA tour.

Braun has fond memories of Mickelson’s junior career, having seen him up close many times once he became a tour director for the AJGA in 1986. Braun said that Mickelson would always send a letter of thanks to the staff of the host club after he played an AJGA event.

“Every single time, no matter the site,” Braun said. “That’s good parenting and that’s why he is who he is on Tour. The way he handled himself, he gets it. For years, there was a lot of jealousy among a lot of other players that he was sort of playing to that. It’s just that he was trained that way by his parents. As he became a golf pro, he got that that’s the professional thing to do. That’s who he is.”

Braun left the AJGA after two years because of the travel grind.

Braun got his PGA card in the early 1990s and joined long-time friend Larry Mancour at Dunmaglas Golf Course in Charlevoix as an assistant pro. He became the head pro at Belvedere in 1996, holding the position until he retired in 2008. While at Belvedere, he helped get the Michigan Amateur back in 2003. Belvedere hosted the event from 1963-88, including the 1979 tournament in which Braun took second.

“It was ironic that many years later, I ended up as the golf pro at Belvedere,” Braun said. “In cleaning out the bag barn the first year, packed to the back wall where the caddies made bets on events was the whole thing from the (1979) match play, match by match, showing who won. So, I was able to grab that off the back wall. I still have that. I got there in ’96, and 17 years later it was still tacked to that back wall of the bag barn. It was sort of cool.”

Golf being a lifelong sport, Braun still plays at the age of 70.

“I do, but not very well anymore,” he said. “It’s sort of discouraging when you’re 70, but that’s the way it is. I still have a lot of fun with it.”

Because of Braun’s contributions to the game, many young golfers have had the opportunity to have fun with golf, as well.

The 36th Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet will be at 4:15 p.m. Dec. 5 at Genesys Banquet and Conference Center. Tickets are $45 and will be available Nov. 2 by calling Debbie Goyette at (810) 397-7305.