Published last Wednesday, in Eugene's RegisterGuard newspaper...
A champ’s story, told in trophies
Stone dominates state’s amateur golf ranks just like the old days
Published: September 26, 2012 12:00AM, Midnight, Sept. 26
Winning doesn’t get old for Brie Stone, and yet as she gets older, she finds that she sees winning from a different perspective, cherishing the journey around the golf course rather than simply focusing on the trophy at the end.
You might remember her as Brie Del Bone, a juniors golf sensation who had won more than 50 tournament trophies by the time she got to high school, and who won four straight Midwestern League golf titles for Sheldon from 1995 through 1998.
Then, she practiced every day; now, living in Veneta, she plays perhaps once a week, with her husband, Jason, manager at Fiddler’s Green Golf Shop, and spends her days caring for their 4-year-old son, Spencer.
And yet she’s still gathering trophies.
Earlier this month, Stone won her third Oregon Golf Association amateur event of the year, the OGA Mid-Amateur, for golfers 25-and-older, at Glaze Meadow Golf Course at Black Butte Ranch. It was her third straight OGA Mid-Amateur title, unprecedented since the event was introduced for women in 1998. Earlier this year, she won the OGA Stroke Play title for the third time in her career, and won her second straight OGA Tournament of Champions title.
“When I was young, I won a lot, and I expected to, so I didn’t appreciate it quite as much as I do now,” said Stone, who turns 32 early next month.
“I definitely want to win, and I go out to win, but I guess I’m focused more on the journey than I am the result.”
In a way, this is the golf career that Stone envisioned for herself since she became inspired by the great career of Mary Budke, who dominated the Oregon amateur ranks in the 1970s. However, the road to this point was unpredictable.
After graduating from Sheldon, Stone played a season at Nevada, and in 1999 won her first OGA Stroke Play title. She transferred to Oregon State for the spring season in 2000, but withdrew from school after that quarter and never went back.
“It’s a long story,” she said, and one that she won’t discuss publicly. “There were a lot of things going on in my personal life right after I transferred. ... It was a tough time in my life.”
She won a second Oregon Stroke Play title in 2001, and in 2002 took a job as an assistant pro at Emerald Valley Golf Course, giving lessons, a job she held for about a year. In 2005, she was selected to join a group of golfers for a series of tournaments in China; she was then exploring playing on a West Coast satellite professional tour, but that folded, and she was talking of going to LPGA Q school but never got there.
The China trip wound up convincing her, finally, that she didn’t want a pro career.
“When I came back, I realized (the validity of) the initial feeling I had — that I wanted to be an amateur, and that I wanted to carry on women’s amateur golf in Oregon, and have a child, and have a family, and not be stuck on the road by myself,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine myself being that far away from family, and friends, and life, and what I was really looking for.”
She and Jason were married in 2006, and Spencer was born in 2007. Even through pregnancy, Stone said, she never really put her clubs away, and having regained her amateur status, she returned to competition in 2008. A year later, she won the OGA Public Links title and was second in the Mid-Am and Stroke Play tournaments.
In 2010, she won the first of her three straight OGA Mid-Amateur titles.
A plus-2 handicap, Stone said her strength is her ball-striking. She’s not a big hitter — she drives the ball about 230 yards — but accurate, both with the driver and irons, and as confident with a 7-iron as she is with a wedge. She said she might practice a bit more now that she and Jason have joined Shadow Hills Country Club, with its excellent new short-game area, but so far her weekly rounds with her husband have been preparation enough for winning tournaments.
“That has worked for me, in a weird sort of way, because it’s lowered my expectations, and I think that’s what got me a lot of times (in the past), because I expected to go out and win, or I expected to play my best, and I expected everything to go my way, and that’s just not the way things are going to go,” she said.
“And when you aren’t out there every day, and you’re not playing all the time, and you have other things you’re focused on in your life, you don’t necessarily expect to go out and play your best every time. Instead you just let it happen.”
After a bad round, Stone doesn’t find it necessary to “pound a million balls” on the range, figuring that she’ll figure it out by the next round, and she’s had just one coaching lesson in recent years, a helpful session on putting last year with Doug DuChateau of Precision Golf School at Fiddler’s Green.
The change in mental attitude is probably the biggest change in her golf game from when she was younger.
“I had the killer instinct when I was out there, but I didn’t have all the tools — that golf isn’t everything, and that a bad shot is just one bad shot, and it happens to everyone, and a bad round happens to everyone,” she said. “When I was in the hunt when I was younger, I could finish. But the problem was if I was not hitting the ball as well as I should, or things weren’t quite going the way that I wanted, I could press too hard; and that’s when things start falling apart in golf, when you press too hard and start wanting things too much.”
Stone’s final tournament of this season will be the OGA Players Championship, Oct. 20-21 at Columbia-Edgewater Country Club in Portland. In the future, she said, she’s considering trying to qualify for the U.S. Golf Association’s Mid-Amateur championships, and taking another crack at qualifying for the amateur berth in the LPGA’s Safeway Classic at Pumpkin Ridge.
In short, there’s a lot of golf ahead, for a woman who has played a lot since she won her first tournament at age 7.
“I like golf the same amount, but I’m more appreciative of golf now,” Stone said. “It never was a chore to come to the golf course, but now that I don’t get to do it as much, I’m just more grateful to be playing.”