“75 for 75” is an article series from the 49ers Museum highlighting legendary moments in 49ers history as part of the team’s 75th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.
John Brodie, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1970, experienced his share of nail-biting moments as the 49ers signal caller for 17 seasons. Still, they were nothing like the tension he felt while staring down a crucial seven-foot putt at a professional golf tournament.
Brodie was a 21-year-old senior at Stanford University when he teamed with golf pro Al Mengert to fire a 72 on the final day of the 1957 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am. They teamed to shoot a 65-70-72 over three days and finished out of the money, but Brodie was just a few months away from a lucrative payday.
Brodie, an accomplished golfer at Stanford, was also college football’s top quarterback that season. The 49ers selected him in the first round (third-overall) of the 1957 NFL Draft and he went on to become one of the NFL’s greatest all-time passers.
A strong-armed thrower and unquestioned team leader, Brodie directed the 49ers offense from 1957 to 1973. He earned the NFL’s MVP award in 1970 after guiding San Francisco to their first ever NFC Championship game and three-consecutive playoff appearances. During his 17 years with the 49ers, the most by any player in team history, he threw for 31,548 yards and 214 touchdowns.
“I don’t know how they choose people for the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame, but John Brodie was the best quarterback I was ever around,” said Dave Parks, a three-time Pro Bowl receiver with the 49ers who hauled in 23 career touchdown passes from Brodie. “He was the whole package: strong passer, competitive and you knew who was in charge when he walked into the huddle.”
While Brodie’s pro football career moved forward, his enthusiasm for competitive golf remained. He earned acclaim as a member of Stanford’s golf team from 1954-1956, playing in two NCAA championships. During his NFL career he qualified for and played in the U.S. Open, won the Northern California Amateur title, and was a regular at the Bing Crosby Pro-Am in Pebble Beach.
After retiring from pro football, Brodie’s passion for golf turned into his new occupation and he joined the Senior Tour at the age of 50. Between 1985 and 1998, Brodie recorded 12 Top 10 finishes and earned nearly $700,000 battling legendary golfers like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Gary Player.
“It was an honor to compete with them,” Brodie said. “They played the game the way it should be played.”
Brodie posted his first win on the Senior PGA Tour after battling with seasoned pros Chi Chi Rodriguez and George Archer at the 1991 Security Pacific Senior Classic. The 56-year-old Brodie fired a final round 68 at Rancho Park Memorial Club in Los Angeles but missed a birdie putt to win on the last hole of regulation. Brodie, Rodriguez and Archer finished deadlocked at 13-under-par.
The playoff started on the 14th hole, a 393-yard par-4, and the always-aggressive Brodie came out firing. After a crisp tee shot, Brodie hit a 9-iron to the front of the green and watched it roll to within inches of the pin, barely missing an eagle. Rodriguez was already on the green about 10 feet from the hole. Both men were putting for birdies. Rodriguez putted first and his attempt slid just past the cup. Brodie then tapped in, recording his first tour victory and earning $75,000.
“Some critics claim golf is only a walk in the park and not an athletic event,” Brodie once said. “But those people are not low handicappers and they don’t understand. I think golf is the most demanding sport of all in asking for coordination from mind and body.”