Dan Brooks won’t be in Baker City on Christmas Day for the first time in decades, but the pandemic isn’t the only reason for his absence.
And his second reason for missing the holiday with his mother, Colleen Brooks, is one he’s eagerly anticipating.
Brooks, 62, will be busy in the days leading up to the holiday, adding another accolade to a coaching career that features enough awards and trophies to fill multiple display cases.
Brooks has coached the women’s golf team at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, for 36 years.
He has amassed an unmatched record during his tenure, including seven NCAA national championships and 137 team victories, the most for any women’s golf coach in Division I history.
Next week Brooks will join three other coaches overseeing a team of 12 women and 12 men golfers from U.S. colleges and universities who will compete in the annual Arnold Palmer Cup.
Brooks, a seven-time national coach of the year, is one of two head coaches for the American squad.
The event pits the American college golfers against a team of players who are from outside the U.S. but who also compete for a college in the U.S.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Brooks, a 1976 Baker High School graduate who played golf at Oregon State University and earned a bachelor of science degree in history there in 1981.
The Arnold Palmer Cup wasn’t supposed to interfere with Brooks’ usual Christmas visit to Baker City, where his childhood home sits less than a block from Quail Ridge Golf Course.
His brother, Mike, helps manage the city-owned 18-hole course, and both Colleen and her late husband, Howard Brooks, were golfers.
The Arnold Palmer Cup, which started in 1997 with men’s teams only and added women players three years ago, usually alternates each year between a course in the U.S. and one abroad.
The 2020 competition was originally scheduled for July 3-5 at Lahinch Golf Club in Ireland.
Brooks, who said he vacationed in Ireland many years ago, was looking forward to returning to the island, this time in his familiar role as golf coach.
But then COVID-19 arrived.
This spring, event organizers announced that the Arnold Palmer Cup wouldn’t happen in Ireland. The event was instead rescheduled for Dec. 21-23 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida. That’s the venue that Palmer, the beloved professional golfer who died in 2016, founded, and it’s where the inaugural Arnold Palmer Cup was played in 1997.
And so now, with Christmas approaching, Brooks is planning not to fly west to Oregon, but rather to drive 620 miles south from Durham to Orlando.
“I’m kind of amazed that we’re still doing it” considering the recent surge in virus cases, he said. “That tells you how special the event is.”
Brooks points out, though, that among sports, golf is one of the easier to accomplish social distancing.
Coaching at the Arnold Palmer Cup will culminate a year that, as with most people, was unprecedented in Brooks’ experience.
Duke canceled its spring sports season, including women’s golf, in March.
This fall the team was allowed to practice, but there were no tournaments or other competitions, Brooks said.
For the previous 35 years, his schedule revolved around golf, and he knew that for much of the fall and spring, he would be on a golf course somewhere in the U.S.
Lots of airplane flights and bus rides.
Not in 2020.
Brooks, although disappointed that the entire competitive season was canceled, said this strangest of years was not without benefits.
He almost felt like a newcomer, for instance, to Durham, a city where he’s lived for going on four decades.
Instead of spending most of his time on a plane, bus or golf course, Brooks said he’s been largely confined to Durham this year.
“I’ve spent more time in the city than ever before, so in one sense it’s been great,” he said. “But I wouldn’t have picked this.”