John Brodie spent 17 seasons in the National Football League trying to avoid the crush of linebackers.
Now he plays on the PGA Senior Tour and there’s no question in his mind which is tougher.
“I happen to think golf is the most demanding sport in the world,” Brodie said.
“There has never been any black print about golf or golfers because the discipline you need demands total attention to the game. You don’t have time to be fiddling around.”
As a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Brodie was one of the best. He was named the NFL’s most valuable player in 1970. Three times he led the league in passing yardage and completions. He played in the Pro Bowl twice.
As a pro golfer, the 51-year-old Brodie is still a novice. He made only $7,930 in 1985, his first year on the tour, and earned $37,801 last year.
But things are getting better. Brodie already has made $31,673 this year and he tied for fourth in the recent Denver Champions tournament. And while he insists that golf is more demanding than football, he also says it’s more fun.
“Football is a spectator sport, golf is a participation sport,” Brodie said. “If they didn’t pay professional football players, you couldn’t find four or five guys to put out there. People pay to play golf. Nobody plays football for nothing, at least not after the age of 21.
“How many times have you heard somebody say, ‘Hey, let’s get a bunch of guys together and go beat the heck out of each other and I’ll bring the ball?’
“I really like what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m doing something I’d rather be doing more than anything in the world. If I take a day off, I don’t know what to do. I’ve never been burned out on golf. I thought I was once. Then when I woke up, I went out and played.”
First he had to make some adjustments.
“There was a lot to learn,” he said, “like where to go to the laundry. Which day do you get your clothes cleaned? What day you get to the tournament? When do you play a practice round? Do you even play a practice round? Or is it better just to take a few swings and be rested for the tournament? How about your eating habits?
“There was a long list of do’s and don’ts. It’s taken me a good year to find these things out for myself.”
They were things that never came up in football.
“All of them were taken care of,” he said. “The only thing was, we had to buy our own shoes. Not only were they taken care of, you were led around to everything. It was all structured by them.
“It’s the difference between doing an interview and being interviewed. In one, you have to create the questions. In the other, you just sit back and talk,” said Brodie, who worked in broadcast 12 years.
At the Denver Champions tournament, Brodie finished only 3 strokes behind winner Bruce Crampton, his best effort on the tour so far. He said he is getting more comfortable each week, although he admitted his game still isn’t as sharp as he would like.
“I have not reached the level in this sport that I reached in football,” Brodie said. “That’s what I’m striving for. At one time, football was very tough for me. As I went on, it became easier because I knew what the heck I was doing. Hopefully, the same thing will happen with golf.”
Brodie said he enjoys the camaraderie on the Senior Tour, but that it hasn’t taken away his competitiveness.
“I don’t see how you could ever lose it,” he said. “There are a few guys who will tell it’s more relaxing than the regular tour, but if you’re coming down the 18th fairway on the final day tied with Gary Player or Billy Casper, how can you be relaxed?
“But that’s a position I’d like to be in sometime. That’s why you play the game.”