Vanderbilt is planning a special Hall of Fame weekend for September 12-13. A series of events will unfold over those two days, capped by the Induction Banquet Friday evening, September 12 and the Class of 2008 being presented at halftime of Saturday's Rice football game. VUcommodores.com will spotlight one inductee per day leading up to the Hall of Fame weekend.
Peggy Brady picked up a golf club when she was 12 years old. She’d been struggling with ear infections, so she had to give up the swim team for a bit. So, her dad took her out to the Marietta, Ga. Country Club, and so began a lifelong love affair with the game.
“Mom would drop me off in the morning and I’d play until dark,” said Brady. “I’d go around and around and around the course.”
After her mother dropped her off, George Preisinger took over. Preisinger, the local pro at the country club, taught Brady the fundamentals of the golf swing and honed her skills for competition.
On September 12, Preisinger’s former pupil will join 11 other candidates entering the inaugural Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame. She competed in golf for the Commodores at a time when the university only had one women’s varsity sport (tennis).
“It’s pretty overwhelming. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” said Brady. “It seems like such an honor.”
The self-titled Air Force brat enrolled in Vanderbilt in 1968, after winning the USGA Junior championship. Brady had just graduated from Central High School in Shelbyville, Tenn., and was looking for a good school close to home.
“I came for academics. I enjoyed the intellectual experience at Vanderbilt,” said Brady. “The golf was just a nice little distraction.”
In two years of college competition, Brady placed third in her first National Intercollegiate in 1970 and medaled in the 1971 event. In her “downtime,” the former All-American hit the books and earned a degree in computer science engineering.
“If you’ve ever taken a computer programming class and you just go cold turkey in with the graduate students, it’s way above in the clouds intellectually,” said Brady. “But I worked and worked and finally the light bulbs came on.”
Brady persevered through the challenges by following her father’s philosophy of working harder if you’re not smart enough, and graduated in 1972.
“It was scary,” said Brady, “but I was glad I went through it. The thought process you have to go through to program a computer is just mind-expanding.”
If not for a casual conversation, Peggy might never have played golf for Vanderbilt. She competed as a Junior player in the state amateurs and the USGA, and played a little golf on the weekends with Nancy Holmes, a former Nashville native, Vanderbilt graduate and a good friend. Then during her sophomore year, she and coach Jess Neely were conversing when he asked her if she’d be interested in going to the Intercollegiate to represent Vanderbilt in Athens, Ga. in 1970.
“It was just something that he came up with,” said Brady. “He noticed this event, and he knew me, and he just offered that opportunity. So, I jumped at the chance.”
She came in third, only about two shots off the lead, after a double bogey on one hole.
“I still don’t know to this day whether I brushed some loose pediment or the wind blew it, but I called the penalty on myself anyway,” said Brady. “I wouldn’t have been able to live with my conscience.”
Peggy continues to play golf despite a demanding career and raising a family. She recently defended her title for the women’s club championship at her local golf course. Brady also recently returned to Vanderbilt in a different role, as the parent of a student-athlete. Chris Brady, Peggy’s daughter, played golf for the Commodores and received All-American status in 2006.
“I think I’m a lot closer since my daughter went to Vanderbilt,” said Brady, “and it connected me again with the school.”
The pair of Commodore golfers now holds the distinction of being the only mother-daughter All-Americans in school history. Brady remembered a time when that might not have been possible.
“I’m so thankful Vanderbilt and the country has accepted varsity women’s athletics, because it’s been great for women to have that opportunity,” said Brady. “Now that they have blossomed and gotten into women’s sports, Vanderbilt seems to be a much more well-rounded university. It’s not just strictly academic.”
Peggy still keeps up with her alma mater. She enjoys reading about the medical and engineering breakthroughs at the university. She continues to cherish her memories and the friendships from her time on campus. Nancy Reed, who graduated from Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt) and mentored Brady’s golf game, and Holmes, who encouraged her to get away from the books and onto the course on the weekends, still linger in her thoughts.
As she has moved on from Vanderbilt, Peggy has continued to form friendships and meet wonderful people through her exploits with golf, while traveling and experiencing unique situations.
“I wish that everybody could have the opportunity to play golf and enjoy the comradery,” said Brady. “It’s extremely brutal as far as mentally punishing, but if you don’t take it too seriously it’s really a great game.”
Brady ended her college golf career her junior year, bowing out of the Intercollegiate the following season to take a job offer. Feeling a little regret for missing her last chance, Peggy preaches to her children to seize once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and to never pass them up. Vanderbilt seized it’s once-in-a-lifetime athlete by sending Peggy to Athens in 1970.
“It’s all been wonderful, and I’m extremely amazed that I’m among that elite group of people (the 2008 HOF class),” said Brady. “I’m glad I’m a part of it.”
Look for Peggy and her family during the Hall of Fame weekend Sept. 12-13. If you really want to grab her attention, just relate your conversation to golf.