Twin Passions: Both Golf and Basketball Called Brian Gaddy… Golf Won Out
Brian Gaddy didn’t take the typical route to the winner’s circle of the SCGA Amateur Championship. In fact, when the 6-foot-3-inch Gaddy achieved his dream of earning a full-ride scholarship to the University of Southern California as a basketball player in the early 1960s, it didn’t seem likely a prestigious amateur golf championship was on the horizon.
But life is full of twists and turns, and after his basketball career ended, Gaddy turned his attention back to golf. “Golf sort of had to take a backseat during my basketball career, but it was really my passion,” he remembers.
As a junior growing up in Burbank, near a small pitch-n-putt course and driving range, golf had been important to him. He got a job collecting balls from the range at age 11. In between trips out to the range, he and his buddy would have the luxury of playing around on the course, and a number of the regular guys who played there started dropping little hints, tips and giving mini-lessons.
“The best tip I got when I was there was to read Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons,” he says. “I started reading that book over and over again.”
He eventually moved on to bigger courses like Griffith Park, and started getting heavily into golf the summer after 8th grade. “I was part of the junior club there, and they let us play for free if we just took a lap around the course and brought back push carts people had left scattered around. Not a bad deal,” he says.
As a member of Burbank High School’s golf team, Gaddy identified his talent for the sport. While simultaneously playing basketball, Gaddy would find success on the golf team, including an incredible round at DeBell GC, where he shot the then-course record of 63.
“After that 63 a lot of people were pushing me to pursue golf, but I was set on basketball,” he says.
He had a family friend who was a couple of years older than he, and Gaddy looked up to him like he looked up to nobody else. He wanted to be just like him, and that meant playing for USC’s basketball team.
“I worked really, really hard at it, and got myself a basketball scholarship,” he says. “But I did end up playing for the golf team as well, and was a three-year varsity player on both teams.”
Having gotten away with being a bit undersized for his forward position in college, Gaddy’s chances of playing professional basketball were eliminated due to his height. However, it opened the door to golf back up, and after college, despite getting a job in sales, he was able to pursue a career in golf.
Despite qualifying for the U.S. Open as an amateur in 1970, and just missing earning a TOUR card at Q-School, Gaddy’s professional dreams ended before they really got started. His amateur career continued to flourish, however, as he qualified for seven U.S. Amateurs, four LA Opens and of course, notched a big SCGA Amateur win in 1978 at Bel-Air CC.
“I remember making a hole-in-one on the 16th during the third round,” he says. “I remember leading after the third round. And I remember driving the ball into a drainage ditch during the fourth round, a moment that was captured in a photo in the LA Times. I still have that copy of the paper. And of course, I remember hoisting that trophy.”
Putting a golf career to the side, Gaddy found success in the business world. He sold office furniture to large companies, and used connections from his golf club, Annandale in Pasadena, to land some significant deals.
“People knew me from my golf success, and the connections I had made through the game helped me tremendously in the business world,” he says.
These days, Gaddy’s golf game is purely social. He plays with a group of the same 10 guys three times a week at public courses throughout Los Angeles. He made a go at the Champions Tour a couple of years back, but injuries kept him out of it. After becoming widowed five years ago, Gaddy met his now-wife Linda on match.com, something he calls “the magic of all miracles.” His love for his wife, and the game of golf, is apparent.
“I see commercials for programs like First Tee that talk about the benefits golf can have on your life, things like integrity and determination,” Gaddy says. “Those are absolutely true for me. That’s really how I feel about the game and why it’s been such an important part of my life for so long.”