NORMAN — Gruff and tough. No nonsense. Black and white.
Also, a “softie” with a heart of gold, who was never too busy to listen and always had an answer even if that answer was, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.”
This is the way Doug Brecht’s friends were remembering him Sunday night, two days after the former University Golf Course (now the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club) head pro and, until falling ill in August, the LPGA Tour’s director of rules and competition, died.
Brecht was 62.
He succumbed to a three-month battle with West Nile Virus that had left him extremely incapacitated since Aug. 6, the day he began feeling symptoms while working the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.
“I talked to Doug’s wife Stephanie, and she told me that Doug passed very peacefully, and with family close by,” LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Wham said, through a release. “I’m no expert on how to grieve, but this one has hit pretty hard. There are no words that can either erase the pain of losing a member of our family, or to help fully explain or understand his passing.”
On tour for 22 years, Brecht will be mourned by the international golf community. As word of his death has spread, Twitter tributes have poured in from several players.
“Few people truly make the world a better place,” wrote 17-time tour winner Dottie Pepper. “We just lost one in the @lpga’s Doug Brecht.”
Closer to home, Brecth will be remembered as a fantastic guy with an extremely generous spirit, even if it was sometimes wrapped in a tough exterior … especially if you were asking him a question about the rules of the game.
“I would call Doug frequently when I needed a ruling or something for the Fourth of July tournament. And we would always try to be more lenient,” Westwood Park head pro David Lisle said. “He would say, ‘Well, are you playing by the rules of golf, because if you are, that would be a disqualification.’ But we would maybe give a two-stroke penalty.
“He would give me relentless grief about it. Like, ‘OK, you make up your own rules’ … He understood where I was coming from, but he wouldn’t let me know that.”
Brecht was a fixture in Norman golf long before he went on tour. He played for OU in the early 1970s and graduated with a math degree.
Lisle first got to know him when he played for the OU team in 1975 and Brecht was an assistant pro under Jim Awtrey.
Later, Brecht worked under Robert O. Smith, who became head pro at the OU course in 1978. From 1982-85, in addition to being Smith’s top assistant, Brecht was also the Sooner women’s golf coach.
Smith left the OU course in 1989 to become a rules official on the LPGA Tour.
“When I’d come home I’d tell him how fun it was and I told him he needed to get out there and be with us,” Smith said. “You’re outside all the time and I enjoyed that … And you’re working with the best players in the world.”
Eventually, Smith sold Brecht on tour life.
“He was right by the book, just like I am,” Smith said. “We talked a lot about the rules. We both went by the book but we were fair with players. They knew they were going to get a fair ruling from us.”
As Smith left the OU course, Richard Buchanan arrived to be Brecht’s assistant. Eventually, Buchanan would replace Brecht. Just as Smith and Brecht became lifelong friends, so to did Buchanan and Brecht.
It’s Buchanan who called Brecht a “softie,” and who said what he’d miss the most was Brecht’s “friendship.”
“We talked a lot on the phone. Even after he left, we stayed in contact, played a lot of golf together and stuff,” he said. “And when I had a rules issue, I called him or Robert O.”
Buchanan didn’t only refer to Brecht for rules questions.
“Doug was a mentor to me,” he said. “And when I had questions, I wasn’t afraid to call him for anything I needed. I don’t think he ever told me ‘no’ about anything. Anytime I needed help, he helped.”
Buchanan will eulogize Brecht.
“Stephanie probably thinks I have the best chance of getting through it,” Buchanan said.
Smith, the one who recalled Brecht would always get back to people with an answer to their question, was looking forward to Brecht following him into retirement. Brecht told him it would likely be after the 2013 tour season.
“I said, ‘That will be good, we can play a lot of golf then,” Smith said. “We can see if we can get our games squared away.’”
Brecht’s funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norman.
Clay HorningFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org