Tom Brandes grew up with modest athletic success, and was only average in sports. He had two brothers and two sisters, and nobody in the family played golf. As a freshman at Marist High School in Eugene, Ore., his friends encouraged him to play on the school's golf team, and that was when he played his first nine holes, shooting a 61 playing with borrowed clubs.
During that freshman golf season the team had been playing at Eugene Country Club, and the club's legendary PGA Professional Wendell Wood was giving a group lesson on the range. He watched Tom hit a few balls and said, "Just go play, kid." To this day, Tom has never had a golf lesson; he is completely self-taught.
As a sophomore, he qualified for the state golf championship and finished as the top player on his team, but then quit the golf team to play on the school's soccer team. His golf coach at the time was furious with him because he saw the potential in Tom, but to Brandes golf was just another sport.
While attending Seattle University, Tom walked onto the golf team. He tried it for a couple weeks, decided he didn't want to play, and got on with his life for the next 15 years, building a career and starting a family.
He continued to play intramural sports, but started focusing on golf because it was a little easier on the body. Once he got established in life, he joined Seattle's Rainier Golf & Country Club in 1986. In 1990 he won the first of his 15 club championships.
And it was also in 1990 that Tom began to amass an almost unmatched record of accomplishments. He qualified for and played in the 1990 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and admits that from that point on he was hooked on competitive golf.
A devoted family man who always put them ahead of his golf game, he still found time to enter championships, and considers his fondest memory to be taking his wife and son to Ireland and Scotland in 2013, and while there playing in the British Senior Amateur, being held that year at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. Tom finished runner-up, with his son caddying for him.