Woolwine: Ed Brantly recalled as golf short-game magician

Woolwine: Ed Brantly recalled as golf short-game magician

January 12th, 2018 by Sam Woolwine in Sports - Golf

They sat close together on a pew at Christ Episcopal Church in Chattanooga.

They were men, most of them in their 80s, who grew up on Signal Mountain and spent most of their youth playing golf at the course that bore the town's name, a course with mysterious bounces and severely undulating greens.

They were there to honor one of their own, one of the best players in the South and one of the two best in Chattanooga, a man who many years ago mastered that course and used it to develop a golf game that would make him a legend.

Ed Brantly became a legend because of his mastery of the short game of golf. But the legend surrendered his breath Sunday and Wednesday was his last hurrah. His funeral.

Ed Brantly

Ed Brantly

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

The pallbearers were mostly men who could summon memories of those days on Signal, among them Carroll Armstrong, Bangie Goodman, Mike Malarkey and Tommy Boone.

Brantly, at age 82, had outlived most of the great players from that era. Lew Oehmig. Harry Shoemaker. Harold Lane.

But Gibby Gilbert, who became a multiple winner on the PGA Tour, remembered Brantly as a great chipper and putter.

"He could get it up and down from anywhere," Gilbert reflected Tuesday at Lane Funeral Home, where Brantly's body lay prior to the funeral.

Brantly had to have that exquisite short game because guys like Gilbert, Lane and Shoemaker could outdrive him by 50 yards or more. In fact, there were few good players who didn't outdrive him, but they didn't possess the chipping and putting ability of this short-game magician.

Brantly did well enough as a junior player to earn a scholarship to Tennessee, but he transferred to Memphis State and graduated from there. He won six tournaments as a junior, including the State Jaycee, Southern Interscholastic and two Brainerd Invitationals.

But his short-game ability also earned him numerous other titles, probably the most important being the 1957 Southern Amateur. That was the best year of his golf career. He also won the first of what would become three Tennessee Amateur titles and the West Tennessee Amateur.

Though he was not long off the tee, Eddie hardly ever hit it out of play. I'm not sure he could have spelled "rough" in Scrabble.

Brantly's domination in Chattanooga was demonstrated clearly in the 1960s when he won six of his seven City Amateurs. He also captured the title in 1970, giving him seven titles in a 10-year period. In addition, he won seven Red Bud Invitationals and six Signal Mountain Invitationals.

"I never could beat him, and I played him I don't know how many times over the years," Boone said. "He hated to lose. I finally beat him a couple of years ago when he was 80. He wasn't a gracious loser, but he patted me on the shoulder and smiled. He did the same thing when he won."

Banjie Goodman, who now lives in Nashville, remembers another side of Brantly.

"I remember when my mother had a heart attack and he called me and went over to the house," Goodman recalled. "It was around 1 in the morning in Nashville, 2 in Chattanooga. He told me I needed to come home. I got there around 5, and there he was sitting with her."

Brantly's resume also included qualifying for the 1961 U.S. Open, where he was the third low amateur behind a man named Jack Nicklaus and Deane Beman, who would become the PGA Tour commissioner. Overall Brantly was 29th. He also qualified in 1962 but didn't make the cut.

He played as an amateur in three PGA Tour events and made the cut in all of them.

While he was in the service, stationed in Germany, he was low amateur in the German Open twice and won the 1960 German Amateur.

He was inducted into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.

Brantly is survived by his wife Bryn Vance-Brantly, daughters Edie Marie Norvell Brantly and Ellen Sydnor and one grandson, Evan Daniel Lanier Brantly.

Contact Sam Woolwine at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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