“He’s 5 and his golfing future’s rosy,” read the headline in 1940 when the Syracuse Herald ran a photo of young Tom Brennan, at the edge of the green at Syracuse’s Sunnycrest Golf Course, pencil in hand. Now Golf Coach Emeritus Brennan, having retired from leading successful golf programs at three schools, can still be seen on the greens most days. But despite the fact that he’s officially retired, nothing much slows down this dynamo who keeps up a busy schedule of golfing, painting, speaking and writing.
Even as a child, Brennan was no stranger to the golf course. His uncles were PGA professionals and held various positions around Central New York. “It was always around me as a young lad,” says Brennan. When other kids were playing soccer and football, Brennan was on the golf course. He lived next door and calls Sunnycrest “my little playground.”
The Syracuse native earned his bachelor’s, master’s and CAS degrees from Syracuse University, after serving in the U.S. Navy.
He joined the Oswego faculty in 1962 and coached the golf team until his retirement in 1989, racking up an impressive 11 consecutive SUNY Athletic Conference Golf Team Championships and 15 straight NCAA Division III Golf Championship appearances. He coached nine NCAA Golf All-Americans, including 1978 NCAA Division III Individual Champion Jim Quinn ’79 and PGA pro golfer Wayne Levi ’74.
His three straight undefeated seasons: (60-0) 1969, 1970, and 1971, culminated in Oswego taking second place in the 1971 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Golf Championships. His illustrious career would see him elected to the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame in 1997, one of only 55 in the nation at that time.
“Coaching depends on the expertise of the coach and an athlete’s skill and respect,” Brennan says. “Equally important is the support of the athletic department, college faculty, administration, student body and community.
“When I was at Oswego State from ’62 to ’89, Oswego State had all those facets in line and that’s why we were so successful and so was the whole athletic program,” he says.
After his retirement from Oswego in 1989, Coach Brennan and his wife, Phyllis, moved to Myrtle Beach, S.C., known to many as “the Golf Capital of the World.” He would go on to teach and coach at Coastal Carolina University for 10 years and another eight at the Carolina Golf Academy, which trains PGA golf professionals. In the ’90s, he directed the summer Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Program.
The coach still shares his golf expertise through articles in the local newspapers and talks at area civic groups. He devotes himself to watercolor painting with the same passion he brought to the game of golf. And whenever they can, he and Phyllis visit sons Scott and Terry in the Syracuse area.
Sometimes at the beach or a golf course he will run into a former player. They remember the coach and the lessons they learned from him. It’s no wonder. He has a very positive personal teaching philosophy: “It’s teaching these young people, men and women, the personal values they can use in their lives,” he says. “Too many coaches are more interested in winning or losing than teaching these young people life’s values.”