In terms of raw power, he was the Bubba, the DJ, the Rory of his day. You only needed to see him hit it once to understand why they called him ‘Bomber’.
However, to define him by just one characteristic would be to misrepresent one of the most unconventional and unique men ever to play the game. He was passionate, determined, and focused. He could also be temperamental, but relentlessly loyal, honest, and compassionate with it. How you were with him often dictated how he was with you.
As well as that, he was an exceptional golfer, a prolific winner, an inspirational and charismatic leader. You could make a very strong case for him being the most influential Scottish golfer of all time, as well as the most underrated.
The year 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of his all-too-early passing and, in an effort to better understand the man behind the reputation, we have spent several months speaking to those who knew him best: his family, his friends, his fellow players, and those who followed him most closely.
This is the story of Eric Brown, the forgotten man of Scottish golf.
ERIC CHALMERS BROWN was born on Roseburn Street in Edinburgh on February 15, 1925. Together with his brother Sandy and sister Betty, he was one of three children born to George and Williamina Brown. George was a master carpenter and, when he got a job teaching woodwork at Bathgate Academy, the family moved out of the capital and into West Lothian.
From their house on Stewart Terrace, you could see the practice ground at Bathgate Golf Club, where many of Eric’s family were members. Naturally, he started to take an interest in the game and would regularly go up to an open, grassy area behind the family home and chip balls back into the garden.
He was doing this one day when another kid challenged him. ‘Is that as far as you can hit it?’ he was asked, at which point Eric took a full swing and promptly smashed the ball right through his mum and dad’s kitchen window.
As he got older, golf began to consume him more and more. He was enrolled as a member at Bathgate, where he would spend hours practising until such times as the blisters on his hands burst and he couldn’t physically hold the club any longer. “I think that’s what put him off practising when he got older,” says his daughter, Colleen. “He wasn’t one for standing on the practice ground for hours and hours.”
He also never had a lesson, preferring instead to hone his craft on his own. In turn, he developed quite an unconventional swing that he maintained right through his career. “He had a cuppy left wrist and would jump his left foot out of the way,” says his fellow Scottish professional and old friend Harry Bannerman. “If you’re familiar with the way Johnny Miller used to swing the club, you’ll know what Eric used to do.”