Once the Brophys settled on golf for their family sport, they did what all golfers wished they could do — they went out and bought five sets of clubs.
Then the Brophys did what all golfers wished beginners would do — they went to the Tekoa course to see if they could even make contact.
“It was a little more user friendly, kid friendly,” Nancy Brophy said of her daughters’ first outing. “We loved it. The kids had a blast. The rest, as they say, is history.”
From that humble beginning six short years ago, the Brophys will be attending their fifth straight championship when the State 4A girls golf tournament tees off in Richland this morning.
Ellie, the middle daughter, is in the spotlight. The Gonzaga Prep senior is making her fourth straight start at state. Two years ago, Ellie and sister Katie, then a senior, both finished third and the Bullpups won the state title.
History could repeat itself. Annie, who was 11th a year ago as a freshman when Ellie was third again, puts Prep in contention for another team title.
“I’ve totally thought about it,” Ellie said. “It would be awesome to do that with both of my sisters. … If we both play well and don’t win, at least we gave it a shot. It’s tough to do it with two people when other teams are going in with five.”
It’s surprising to outsiders that the Brophy sisters reached that level in just six years, but in reality they got there much quicker.
“There’s no secret,” said Manito Country Club professional Steve Prugh, whom the Brophys give all the credit. “Mike and Nancy are committed to their kids. They’re wonderful kids and they work hard. Family commitment can do great things.”
Katie caught the golf bug first.”My husband and I sat down and decided to give the children a family sport,” Nancy said. “It was tennis or golf. They played quite a bit of tennis but no one seemed crazy about it. With the handicap system in golf, we thought we could all play together.”
Katie joined the golf team at Prep, improved enough as a freshman to be second team All-Greater Spokane League, then made state as a sophomore, finishing ninth.
Ellie was 15th as a freshman and Katie was third. The next year they won state. Katie went on to Notre Dame, where she was Big East Conference champion as a freshman and fourth this year. Ellie will head to Yale next fall.
“It’s hard to set myself on out-doing Katie,” Ellie said. “We’ll be in different leagues and we probably won’t play against each other more than once or twice. But, through all that Katie has done, my eyes have been open to what’s out there.
“It’s great to think of everything I’ve done with golf. I feel really fortunate because I really have had so many opportunities. … I guess it’s like a journey we all embarked on a few years ago. It’s been great. I miss a lot of stuff (socially) with my friends in the summer, but I don’t regret it. I’ve met so many new friends through golf and have so many relationships, it’s wonderful.”
Annie hasn’t felt any pressure to be part of the Brophy dynasty.
“Obviously I know everyone has expectations but I try not to think about it,” she said. “My parents said whatever I do with golf is fine. … (Katie and Ellie’s success) motivates me, it shows me what I can do with my game if I work at it. I can get there, too.”
Sibling competition was never a driving force.
“We never really all decided together to get good at golf,” Ellie said. “My parents always thought it was important for us to choose something to excel at. We’re all expected to work hard at school. We don’t have to golf — we can do anything else — but we have to do something and try to do it well.
“The reason we got so good so fast is because we practiced so much. We spent all day everyday at the golf course all summer long.”
Prugh said there isn’t a Brophy golf gene, even though Carl, an eighth grader who shared his first set of clubs with Annie, appears poised to keep this going after his sisters graduate.
“They have four unique individuals,” he said. “They do not have the same physical gifts, without a doubt … but they have had a lot of success.
“They’re a cohesive family group. They work well together. When they commit to something, they go for it … if the kids are willing to put in a full effort, Mom and Dad are willing to work for it.”
“I do kind of pinch myself,” Nancy said. “They are good people and I think they are nice people, but it is great they have an athletic outlet and are successful. We’re very proud.”
It’s Carl, Ellie said, who would fill out the perfect Brophy foursome since Mom, who plays in a weekly 9-hole league, and Dad, a gastroenterologist and liver specialist, have little time to play.
“We just kind of hit it around,” Ellie said of the family gatherings. “It’s not intense.”
This is Ellie’s last stand for high school. She is a long hitter, a trait that is neutralized on the short Meadow Springs course with fast greens.
“It’s thinking golf,” she said, “course management.”
It’s obvious, by picking Yale, she can think her way around a course.
“I wanted to do something completely different, and completely mine, for college,” she said. “I have no idea. I figure something will come to me and I’ll be inspired.”
But that’s the future. First comes trying to finish her prep career with a flourish.
“Winning state was fabulous, it was an amazing feeling,” she said. “I’m fortunate to play with both of my sisters. Sometimes I feel like being the middle sister is the toughest spot to be. I feel sandwiched sometimes, but I’m definitely glad I was able to play two years with both of them.”
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