Michael Brannan 1955-2013: Prominent Northern California golfer passes away at 57
January 10, 2013
Michael Brannan, an exceptional amateur golfer in Northern California for the past four decades, passed away late Tuesday night at age 57 after a battle with cancer. The Alamo resident, who just nine months earlier won the 51st NCGA Senior Championship, had four NCGA majors to his credit, which also included an NCGA Junior (1973), an NCGA Four-Ball Championship (1973, with partner Jim Lathum) and an NCGA Amateur Match Play title (1976). Moreover, Brannan is one of just 14 golfers to have claimed multiple California State Amateur Championships, winning in 1973 and 1976, and losing in the 1974 final. He is also just one of 12 champions to have won a California State Amateur and earned medalist honors in the same year. Brannan, a Salinas resident in his youth, dominated the Northern California golf scene in the early 1970s having won three NCGA Player of the Year awards (1973, 1974 and 1976) all before his 22nd birthday.
Maybe most impressive of all though was Brannan’s success in the U.S. Junior Amateur. At the 1971 U.S. Junior Amateur at the Manor CC in Rockville, Md., Brannan beat Robert Steele 4 & 3 in the final. With the win he became the youngest player ever to win the title at 15 years old and eight months. That record would stand for 20 years until 1991, when a golfer by the name of Tiger Woods won the title at 15 years old and six months. After losing in the first round of match play in 1972, Brannan came close to adding a second U.S. Junior Amateur title in 1973, losing in the final to Jack Renner in 20 holes. In the semifinals Brannan beat future U.S. Open Champion Scott Simpson.
He enrolled at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah from 1974-1978 where he was a four-time All-American and All-Western Athletic Conference. Brannan was named a third team All-American his freshman and junior years, and a first team All-American his sophomore and senior years. During his tenure at BYU, Brannan additionally made it to the quarterfinals of the 1977 U.S. Amateur and was a member of the winning U.S. Walker Cup team at Shinnecock Hills. One of the highest honors an amateur golfer can receive, only four other Northern California residents have earned a spot on the Walker Cup team: Charles Seaver (1932), Lawson Little (1934), Ken Venturi (1953) and Nathaniel Crosby (1983).
After completing college, Brannan turned professional and played several years on the PGA Tour. He had four top 10 finishes in his career with a runner-up performance at the 1979 Houston Open. Additionally, Brannan competed in three U.S. Opens and the 1978 Masters.
Brannan regained his amateur status in the late 1980s and continued to play at a high level, making it to the semifinals of the 1989 U.S. Amateur and the quarterfinals the following year in 1990.