By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter
Golf has always been a part of Brandel Chamblee’s life, whether it’s been on the course or in front of a television camera.
Tragedy changed the direction of his career.
He had moderate success on the PGA Tour. Chamblee won the Greater Vancouver Open in 1998. He lost twice in playoffs and was a contender in several more tournaments, including a tie for second in the Quad City Classic in 1997. But his focus changed dramatically in the summer of 2000.
His second son, Braeden, was born two months early and died nine days later.
Chamblee’s interest in golf’s grind went south, and he eventually lost his card in 2003. The competitive juices had dried up.
“I quit playing the tour for tragic reasons,” Chamblee said. “I lost a son. I just lost the ability, the motivation. I wanted to do something different that allowed me to be home. Having quit golf that way, I honestly didn’t miss it that much.”
Television was Chamblee’s landing spot. He went to work for the Golf Channel and is now the lead studio analyst.
“I’ve been so embroiled in television it’s almost like another life ago that I played professional golf,” Chamblee said. “My life is really about TV and studying the game.”
But Chamblee, 56, received a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s Principal Charity Classic. This is just the second PGA Tour Champions event of his career. He also played in last year’s Senior British Open.
Why the jump back into competitive golf? Chamblee gives Baily Mosier, who he married in late December 2016, the credit for that.
“My wife is a pretty good golfer,” Chamblee said. “She loves the game. Probably more than I do. We go out and play. She’s just been after me to try and see if I can get good again.”
So Chamblee will tee it up in Friday’s first round at 10:20 a.m. off No. 10 tee, seeing if he can find the right stuff again.
I’m trying to challenge myself to do something that is completely out of my comfort zone,” Chamblee said. “Every now and then it’s good to scare yourself.”
Chamblee was also out of his comfort zone when his television career started.
“When I first got into TV, my earliest memories were being surrounded by people who said, “Sit like this, hold your hands this way, don’t hold them that way,’ ” Chamblee said. “I remember going on the air and thinking, “Am I supposed to say this or say that?’ You sort of get consumed by what these people tell you.”
Chamblee found out through experience that how you sit and what you say doesn’t matter if it resonates with the audience.
“I found four or five years later that you could say all the things they told you not to say, and sit in all the positions you were not supposed to sit in, and they’d turn around and tell you, “Great show,’ ” Chamblee said. “Why? Because you owned it. You were yourself, and you were confident.”
Chamblee has become a polarizing personality at the Golf Channel, gaining respect and criticism.
“I enjoy the work,” Chamblee said. “I enjoy studying players, trying to figure out why they do or not do well. Why do they not last? Who hits it long and hits is straight and lasts? That’s golf’s holy grail.”
Chamblee let’s the criticism roll off his back, whether it’s his recent spat with PGA champion Brooks Koepka or other issues that have come up in the past.
“I get attacked a lot on Twitter,” Chamblee said. “It doesn’t bother me at all. Everyone has a voice. I only care about a handful of people’s opinions in the world…my wife’s opinions, my kids, and a few people in the profession who I think are really bright. I don’t care about anyone else’s opinion.”
Chamblee, who builds his on-air commentary from hours of research, feels his job is to inform his viewers.
“I’m not speaking to tour players, I’m not trying to be their friends,” Chamblee said. “I don’t want to be their friends. I try not to take myself seriously. But I take my job seriously. I work at it.”
Chamblee has enjoyed his change of roles this week. He’s seeing guys he used to compete against when he played on the PGA Tour. Tuesday night, he and former PGA champ Mark Brooks were in Golf Headquarters in West Des Moines, changing the grips on their clubs side-by-side.
“I’ve known Mark since I was 14,” Chamblee said. “We played together at Texas.”
Chamblee’s goal this week is to give golf his best shot.
“My goal is to give this event my full attention,” Chamblee said. “I’m here to work on my body, my golf swing. I’m on a fact-finding mission. I want to see where I stack up. And then it’s back to work.”