Doug Brazeau, of Old Orchard Country Club, Recognized for his Commitment with Youth Player Development Award
By Tim Cronin
Doug Brazeau is a home-grown success story.
He was on the golf team at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. Today, he’s the head professional at Old Orchard Country Club, the park district-owned course in nearby Prospect Heights, where Hersey’s boys team practices and plays, as do both of St. Viator’s squads, and where his old coach with the Huskies, Dan Caporusso, gives lessons.
It’s no surprise, then, that Brazeau has a deep interest in getting youngsters into the game and keeping them there. He sees himself out there when Hersey colors are on the course. It’s how hard and in how many ways he works at it that’s impressive.
For Brazeau, it starts by getting players on the golf course.
“Traditional junior golf programs have been stuck in the past for far too long by just parking the kids on the driving range,” Brazeau said. “During my time as a PGA professional I have heard too many stories where kids have lost interest and choose other sports over golf. That doesn’t happen here at Old Orchard Country Club.
“I found out very early on just offering instructional classes and a clinic to juniors was not growing the game of golf. I needed to have fun, and for me to have fun the kids had to have fun. My focus has been to get the kids golfing first, no matter what ability level they are at.”
This concept has been 15 years in the making.
“We offer programs for the very beginner that comes with a complete set of fitted clubs and a week of classes and golfing to advanced instruction and tournament golf at the highest level. I been able to capture and retain these kids by creating a team atmosphere that hooks them on the greatest game in the world, for life.”
The players, from age 6 to 17, are divided into age-group leagues, with a morning league for advanced players and an all-ability evening league that plays team scrambles. There are separate summer and fall sessions.
“By creating a series of leagues, offering different levels of seriousness and competition we have been able to connect we each child,” Brazeau explained. “All of the leagues are run with the team aspect in mind and all matches are played as a team. One night of high-fiving and fist pumping is all it takes to get them hooked.”
And Hook A Kid On Golf is one of the tools he uses for the younger set, working with Holly Alcala and the Kids Golf Foundation on various mentoring projects, including hosting their Traditions of Golf Challenge National Championship.
Twice a year for the last five years, Old Orchard has hosted Illinois Junior Golf Association tournaments.
Additionally, between hosting youth from Maryville Academy, clinics for the CDGA’s Sunshine Through Golf program and the Northwest Special Recreation Association, Brazeau’s not only given, but received.
“During these clinics I get to work with special needs kids and that has really changed my perspective on teaching,” he said. “This has reinforced even more the importance of making learning fun and exciting. Some of these students have aspirations of participating and have participated in the Junior Special Olympics.”
He also works with local schools to identify a boy and a girl each year for a “scholarship,” free participation in the youth league. Each gets a new set of fitted clubs in addition to the league play.
Even before the PGA Junior League was created, he had partnered with two other facilities, Mount Prospect Golf Course and Des Plaines Golf Center, to create the Eagle League for the juniors of the three operations.
“With this league we each took turns hosting travel matches with the matches being three person scramble match play format and a skills challenge day where the kids had to hit different shots for prizes,” Brazeau detailed in his nomination submission.
Old Orchard’s PGA Junior League team, which he calls an all-star team, has gone deep into the playoffs.
With all this, Brazeau also teaches.
“It is the way he engages his students as they grapple with challenges inherent in the game that is most impressive,” Caporusso said. “Students appreciate his style of instruction because he has established a rapport with them that is the envy of most successful golf professionals. He inspires his young golfers to expect more from themselves, and as a result they begin to understand that great rewards stem from hard work and high expectations.”
St. Viator coach Jack Halpin agrees.
“The confidence they build with Doug will stay with them their whole life,” Halpin said. “All of us who are involved with golf on any level all talk about ‘growing the game.’ Doug Brazeau has made it his life commitment.”