Taffy Brower of Ocean Ridge has played golf for about 50 years
and has won more than 50 tournaments.Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Craig Dolch
Taffy Brower has played golf for a half-century. Not just golf, but competitive golf, which as Bobby Jones famously pointed out, is an altogether different animal from a friendly foursome on the links.
Playing competitively for 50 years doesn’t make the 67-year-old Ocean Ridge resident an anomaly. What sets her apart is she has won more than 50 tournaments — or about one a year since she started playing the game at 7 while shagging balls for her mom, Roz Simmons, in Rochester , N.Y.
“To be honest, I absolutely hated it when I had to shag balls for my mom,” Brower said. “It was so boring. But when I got a chance to play the game, I fell in love with it.”
The half-century affair continues. Thanks to her very understanding husband, Buzz, Brower has been able to follow her dream for most of her adult life, save for a 10-year stretch from 1970 to 1980 when she put away her clubs to raise their children and help Buzz with his business.
Her first title came in the Rochester Women’s District Junior Championships in the mid-1950s, and her most recent came when she teamed with 13-year-old Alexa Hammer of Boynton Beach to win the 65th annual Women’s International Four-Ball Championship earlier this year in Hollywood, Fla.
It was no big surprise when she was asked to name her top accomplishment; Brower needed a few seconds to think. There are, after all, so many options.
“It would probably have to be,” Brower said, “when I held the Southern Amateur and the Southern Senior Amateur titles in the same year.”
That was in 2004, when she was named Player of the Year by the Florida Women’s State Golf Association. It’s surprising she didn’t get that honor more than once, considering she won the Florida State Women’s Match Play Championship four times (she was runner-up three other times), the Stroke Play Championship twice, the State Four-Ball Championship twice and the State Senior Championship once.
Not surprisingly, Brower has done some of her best work locally.
She won the Palm Beach County Women’s Amateur Championship seven times, the West Palm Beach City Championship three times and was a six-time Tri-County champion. She also has competed in 43 USGA events, qualifying for the 1991 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur an amazing 13 times.
Brower did more than win tournaments; she also helped run them. When the sponsorship for the Palm Beach County Women’s Amateur Championship was pulled by The Evening Times in the mid-1980s, Brower and Mary Hanyak continued to hold the tournament, a move that kept the championship alive and still running.
Brower helped use some of the proceeds from the tournament to assist with the Wayside House in Delray Beach, a place where women with alcohol and drug problems can get free treatment and housing. She was on Wayside’s board of directors for more than 20 years.
What’s surprising is Brower has not yet been inducted into the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame. It probably doesn’t help that Brower, who is on the ballot after being nominated for the Hall, is not a household name. In fact, the only time she was mentioned in Sports Illustrated was for a match she lost. That’s because she happened to play a 17-year-old named Natalie Gulbis in the finals of the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Match Play Title in 2000.
When Brower was asked about how much it would mean to get inducted into the local hall of fame, she became emotional. It took her more than 30 seconds to respond.
“It would mean more to my kids than it would to me,” she said. “They are so proud of me. Buzz and I have five children between us: 15 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. They all know Nana plays golf.
“It would mean a lot to me. Are you kidding? I have thought about it, I have wondered. It would be the culmination of all the work a golfer puts into his or her game. We all work hard. Some just have more trophies than others.”
Brower worked at the Gulf Stream Golf Club as a merchandise purchaser for more than 20 years before retiring in 2006. Her “retirement” lasted two years before she went to work for Charlie Bowie in the pro shop at Quail Ridge Country Club in suburban Boynton Beach. Having been a member at nearby Delray Dunes, Brower was familiar with the quality of golfers at Quail Ridge.
“I am in awe of the caliber of golfers here at Quail Ridge,” Brower said. “They have such a great place to play. This is a perfect place if you love golf.”
And most savvy golf folks are in awe of Brower’s career. “She has accomplished so much, yet she remains so humble,” Bowie said. “We love having her around.”
Looking back, Brower laughs at her initial reluctance to be around the game that has since shaped so much of her life. And it still does.
“What draws me to the game is the people,” she said. “The people who play golf are different than people who play other sports. They are honest, they are kind, they are considerate.
“And I love the challenge of the game, no matter what your age is. The ball doesn’t go in the hole as fast as it used to, but every once in a while I can still pull off the shot.”