Branson Real – Local Collegiate Golfer

February 11, 2010 by  

Branson Real is a member of the George Mason University (Fairfax, VA) Men’s Golf Team.  This past year he changed his major to Sports Management and not having enough credits in that major as a junior, according to NCAA rules, he was redshirtted this year.  He has one year of eligibility left and is looking forward to fall 2010 to resume competition.  Branson arrived at George Mason in a somewhat less traditional path than most of us are probably familiar with.  We had the opportunity to ask Branson some questions about his golf career to this point and here is what he had to say.

Branson, first, thanks for sitting down with us and giving some of your time.  As you know, DC Metro Junior Golf is geared towards the Junior golfer and, as a college player, we’re sure there will be plenty of interested readers.  Tell us a little about where you are from.

Sure, it’s a pleasure to be able to talk with you.  I grew up in Wray, Colorado.  It’s a small town of about 2,000 people.  I went to Wray High School.  We had 43 students in the graduating class. 

Wow, that is a small class.  What about your junior golf and high school golf experience. You know, when did you start playing golf and how did you move through the ranks. 

Well, I started playing golf, really just hitting balls and playing it as a recreation in 5th grade.  I didn’t play junior golf as most of your readers probably think of junior golf.  You know, AJGA, local junior tours and things like that.  In my freshman year of high school, I started to take it serious.  Oh, I also need to say that my high school didn’t have a golf team.  Myself and a couple of other players actually played on a rival high school team.  We commuted about 30 minutes each day to the other school for practice.

What?  That’s unusual.  Dedicated, too.

Yeah, it was.  But we wanted to play and the other school was happy to have us.  Getting back to high school play, I started taking it serious my freshman year.  Junior golf just wasn’t around our area.  I played lots of scramble tournaments with other high school players and adults.  That really helped my game because of the pressure and just the pride and determination of wanting to beat everyone else.  I played on a team with the same players at each scramble.  Just about everywhere we went, we were the team to beat.  My freshman year, I think my stroke average was something like 90.  It wasn’t particularly good.

How about after your freshman year?

My sophomore year my stroke average was about 84.  I won a tournament that year with a 73.  In my junior year, I made State.  And, I tied for 24th.  I just continued to work on my game when I could, trying to get better.  Then, in the summer between my junior year and senior year, I went to Denver and lived with family friends for the summer.  I wanted to improve my course management skills and really work on reading greens.  In my town, we only had a nine hole course so I knew that course inside out.  I went to Denver to play on more courses, get exposed to more difficult courses.  I also caddied at Cherry Hills Country Club that summer.  That helped alot with learning how to read greens. 

Did your plan work?

It definitely helped.  My senior year I won four high school tournaments.  I won regionals as an individual and led our high school team to the regional team championship title.  My stroke average got down to 75.  I also qualified for State and was looking forward to that tournament.  I felt real good about my chances of doing well there.  But, two days before the tournament, I came down with mono. 

What? Wow, that’s a tough blow to ending what was turning out to be a great season.

Actually, I went and played anyway.  I wasn’t going to miss out on at least playing in the State championship. 

Ok, we are not going to advise our readers to play golf with mono, but we have to know how you did!

It started out well.  I was leading after eight in the first round.  I was 4 under.  I bogeyed number nine and made the turn at 3 under and leading by 2.  But, then I hit a wall.  I felt weak and tired.  I just couldn’t keep up the pace.  I did shoot 74 that day and followed it up with a 76 on the second day.  So, I did hang in there.  I think I finished 18th.  Considering everything, I think I did pretty good.

Branson Real - George Mason Golf Team (click to enlarge)

Coming from a small town, attending a high school that didn’t have a golf team of its own, not competing in junior golf events, were there recruiting efforts made by colleges or did you reach out to them?

A little of both.  I made official visits to Idaho State and the University of South Dakota.  Doane College (Nebraska) actually came to me.  Lots of schools sent letters.  There is a D3 school in Pennsylvania called Allegheny College.  They did a great job recruiting.  They listened, they seemed really interested in me as a person and not just as a player.  But, they don’t offer scholarships and I was really looking for one.  And, there were other schools that I passed on just because I wasn’t interested.  I ended up at Hutchison Community College (Hutchison, Kansas).

Why there?

It was a school with about six to eight thousand students.  The visit I made there was great.  The coach defended his players.  He made it seem that all the players were really a part of this family.  They offered me a scholarship.  And, they were nationally ranked, which was very attractive. 

So how did your college golf career start out?

Awful.  My freshman year I played in three fall tournaments.  I just played terrible.  I thought maybe I had made a mistake.  To top it off, over the Christmas break, South Dakota called and offered a scholarship for the following fall.  I verbally committed.  I stayed at Hutchison in the spring and practiced with the team but didn’t play in any tournaments.  I improved alot that spring. 

How did things go at South Dakota?

They didn’t.  Two weeks before school started, the coach got fired.  I had already enrolled in classes.  Talk about crazy.  The coach was the main reason I wanted to go there. 

What did you do at that point?

I ended up staying at Hutchison.

Did you get to keep your scholarship?

Yes.  That was a good thing.

Did they put you in the starting lineup?

Yeah.  I played well, too.  I had ten Top-10 finishes.  I made First Team All-Conference.  My stroke average was 74.2.

When did George Mason come into the picture?

Coach King (Scott King, Mens Golf Coach for Mason) was talking to me from the start of the second season at Hutchsion.  I visited in February of that season and verbally committed a month later.  I liked the campus alot.  Coach King is really enthusiastic about golf.  He did a good job recruiting, showing off the school and it’s facilities. I signed an NLI in May of that year.

Up until your redshirt year, how have you been doing at Mason?

Inconsistent.  Two solid rounds and then one not so solid.  There’s probably alot of people reading this that can relate to that.  My best performance to date was in Puerto Rico at a spring break tournament.  I shot 79, 68, 73 and finished eleventh.

I would guess that you can’t wait to get back to playing tournaments.

I am so looking forward to getting back to competing in the fall.  It’s hard because I am competitive and I don’t have an outlet to compete in golf.

What are you doing now?  How are you spending your time?

I am taking the opportunity to make a swing change.  I am working on my putting stroke.  That’s getting much better.  I am also hitting the weight room big time.  Mason has a good facility.  I am also working on my flexibility with yoga.  I will be ready for fall season.

What bit of advice would you give to all the junior golfers reading this interview?

Experience.  Experience is huge.  Play in tournaments.  Play on different courses.  Always commit to your shot.  And, of course, you can’t say enough about practicing short game.

Branson, again thanks for taking the time to chat.  Good luck in the fall and stay in touch.

Thanks.  No problem.  I will check in with you at some point.  You can always check out the team website at gmu.edu (laughing).

WHAT’S IN THE BAG

Driver: Cleveland Launcher 400, 8.5 degrees

Utility: Ping G5, 16 degrees

4I – PW: Titleist ZM

Gap Wedge: Cleveland CG12, 52 degrees

Sand Wedge: Cleveland CG14, 56 degrees

Lob Wedge: Cleveland CG12, 60 degrees

Putter: Cobra Optica

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