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Quiet Killer
Jaime Diaz
May 13, 1996
Unassuming Mark Brooks let his deadly short game do the talking in Houston
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May 13, 1996

Quiet Killer

Unassuming Mark Brooks let his deadly short game do the talking in Houston

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Brooks is the product of diverse influences. His father, the late W. Hal Brooks, was a Baptist minister who died of cancer at 53. Mark keeps tapes of his father's sermons and founded Brooks House, a center for troubled teens, in memory of Hal. His mother, Paula, is directing the congressional campaign of Fort Worth mayor Kay Granger. As a drama and music teacher at Richland High, Paula taught Mark's wife, Cynthia. In a school production of South Pacific, Cynthia played Nellie Forbush, while Mark, six years her junior, was cast as one of the children. "I lost touch with him after I got out of high school," says Cynthia of her husband of 12 years, "but my mom would send me newspaper clippings of him with notes that said, 'That Mark Brooks boy is sure cute.' "

Don't expect to hear any of this from Brooks himself. Cynthia, a former publicist for the country-music division of RCA records, says her husband hates self-promotion. "I think it comes from being a preacher's son and growing up in a fish-bowl," she says. "People were always watching Mark to see if he'd slip up."

However, you don't have to hang around the locker room long to learn that Brooks is considered one of the toughest players on the Tour. "He's just an animal of a competitor," says his caddie, Mark Hensel. Brooks proved that again at Houston, but the closest he comes to a personal conceit is to view himself as a thinking man's golfer.

"I would say my brain is probably my biggest asset," he says, "because I'm not walking around with a bundleful of raw talent. I don't beat myself very often. A lot of guys are awesome from tee to green. They can hit it nine miles, they can putt, they can chip, they can do it all. And you ask, 'Why has he won only twice, or why has he won only once, or why has he won only eight times? He should have won 20.' There's something else. It's right there," says Brooks, tapping his head with his forefinger. "It's not all heart. Everybody tries to say somebody doesn't have heart. That's not really true. It's just that the wheels spin funny when you get into contention."

In the final round at Houston, Maggert and Duval each had his inner gyro go off its axis. The talented Duval, who at 24 has already had a half-dozen chances to win in the last two seasons, made four bogeys to negate four birdies and missed a 10-footer to tie on the final hole. "If I keep learning, I'll get a win in here somewhere," he says.

Maggert—who, despite appearing on leader boards with monotonous regularity over the last five years, still has only one victory—played solidly for 17 holes of regulation but was undone by one disastrous mistake. He led Brooks and Duval by two going into the par-5 13th and had only 210 yards to the front of the island green for his second shot, but he chose to lay up because of the firmness of the green and the gusty winds. On his third shot from 97 yards, Maggert pulled a sand wedge that the wind took farther left, and he watched helplessly as it bounced off a slope and into the water. It led to a double-bogey 7, and the game was on.

Maggert gathered himself to make a birdie at the 15th and par the remaining holes, including a touchy up and down from the bunker at the last. Then in sudden death he hit a three-iron from 190 yards to 18 feet. However, after Brooks drained his birdie, Maggert hit his putt too softly and lost it on the low side.

"I'm not going to go sulk tonight," said Maggert, whose performance was nevertheless an improvement over other occasions when he has squandered fourth-round leads. "I feel like I know how to handle it now, and I'll get a few wins somewhere. Mark took it away."

Brooks, who had to make four trips to the Tour's Q school in the mid-'80s, knows about rebounding from disappointment. Not surprisingly, he likes to do it by himself. "I'm kind of stubborn," he says. "I get a lot of satisfaction going through that kind of thing alone, if you will. That's why the game is intriguing. That's why wealthy, powerful people like the game so much. They can do a lot of things, but they choose to go frustrate the hell out of themselves on a tough golf course. You wonder why, but it's because it's an interesting game. I enjoy it because I'm kind of a perfectionist trying to do something that can't be done. There's no such thing as perfect golf."

Instead, there's getting it around, and last week in Houston, Brooks did that perfectly.

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