April 7, 2010
Tennessee completed its regular season and is in final preparations for the SEC Men's Golf Championships, set for April 16-18 on St. Simons Island, Ga. Helping set the tone all season for head coach Jim Kelson's Vols has been senior James Brannen.
The Clarksville product already leads the team with four SEC academic citations for excellence, and last month he played some of his best collegiate golf. Brannen fired a career-low 223 to finish in a tie for 48th place, also a career best, at the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational. This week, Brannen totes his bag on "The Front Nine."
No. 1 (Par 4, 445 Yards) - What is it about the Schenkel? Every time down there you play better and better.
JB - "I guess the tournament is pretty relaxed, which helps me. I think that course suits my game. The greens are pretty tough on most people, and probably my strong point is putting. So that gives me an advantage. And it's not too long; I guess it's more of a scorer's course. But most of all the greens - I usually putt pretty well down there and a lot of people seem to struggle. That's definitely my advantage."
No. 2 (Par 5, 575 Yards) - Doesn't your family have a history with the Tennessee golf program.
JB - "My dad (James, 1977) and my brother (John, 2003-07) played here, and I grew up a huge Tennessee fan. We came to all the football games, always had season tickets, and I just fell in love with the place. Coach Kelson started recruiting me and I couldn't help but want to come here, especially having my brother here. It was the perfect fit.
"I had two years here with my brother and it was awesome. After my freshman year I moved in with John and Jordan Howell, who played basketball. Jordan is now my best friend. I got to have my brother and another great Christian guy there with me, so it was good. Jordan and I still live in the same place."
No. 3 (Par 4, 350 Yards) - What's with all the golf-basketball team friendships at Tennessee? It seems like you guys are really tight.
JB - "I think the connection seriously was John with Jordan. Cameron (Lawrence) and I are really good friends, so it was John met Jordan and then when Cam came in, Cam and I hung out a lot. Chris Lofton lived with us, so we got to know him, and then Steven (Pearl) was another guy and Ryan Childress - Cam and I both were in his wedding. Now we are all great friends. It's been awesome."
No. 4 (Par 3, 246 Yards) - What is something about UT you didn't know until you arrived on campus?
JB - "Just how the athletes are treated here. Living at Gibbs was so nice - just being on campus, not having to drive, and the classes. Having the workouts there and just how you can go in and get treatment anytime you want or medicine you need. You always feel special. They make you feel special."
No. 5 (Par 4, 455 Yards) - You were the Tennessee high school state golf champion in 2003. What was high school like for you?
JB - "I was blessed being in Clarksville. It's a big golf town. My best friend growing up was Ryan Fisher, and he just finished playing golf at Missouri. I have pictures since we were 5; best friends all the way through playing golf. We were able to push each other and even in high school - we were good every year. So being in a golf town, my parents and Ryan's parents used to always travel together to tournaments. We had parents that were willing to take off work and take us to different tournaments. That helped out a lot. Clarksville was really great about providing opportunities for kids to play. That made it a lot easier to get your game better."
No. 6 (Par 3, 180 Yards) - What is something about yourself that people may not know?
JB - "My faith is a big part of my life, for sure. I grew up in a Christian home but my first two years here I had kind of the party attitude or whatever, and it kind of got away from me. Not a lot, but these past two years the one thing that has probably helped my game more than anything is my relationship with Christ. It has made me ease out on everything. Being able to trust in Him has made golf a lot more enjoyable to me. It's just something, playing golf, I've been blessed to be able to do. These past two years have been amazing."
No. 7 (Par 4, 450 Yards) - What has been your role with the team this year?
JB - "It has been a little different. It's gone by so fast. Everybody told me when I got here, watch out - it's going to fly by. Then all of a sudden I'm a fifth year. But, yeah, the guys on our team - we're unbelievable as far as connecting with each other. We have such great relationships. We all look at each other as equals on the golf course. Even though I don't play regularly, I feel I am able to encourage the guys and be more of a leader to some of the younger guys. I think that's good, just the way I learned from Philip (Pettitt) and Charlie (Ford)."
No. 8 (Par 5, 570 Yards) - Did you recently find out some exciting news?
JB - "Yep, I'm going to Memphis. I got accepted to the UT College of Dentistry two weeks ago. I just have physics left to finish up my major, so I'm going to go from having four hours this semester to 31 hours in the fall! They told me you go to class Monday through Friday from 8 to 4 or 8 to 5. Your first two years are academics and your last two are more like clinical stuff. Yeah, I'm pumped about it."
No. 9 (Par 4, 460 Yards) - What are the strengths of your game and how are you playing here at the end of your collegiate career?
JB - "Definitely my strength is putting. You ask any of the guys on the team and that is it. I made some swing changes after I got here, which can be good and bad, but it got my swing better and then honestly it's just been confidence. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, but I just needed to go back and act like I was in high school and middle school - get that feeling back. I definitely did and have played a lot better these past three years.
"Our team has been so good. I definitely haven't played as much as I would have liked, but at the same time I wouldn't trade anything. Looking back, this is where I needed to be and where I wanted to be."