When golfers picture Lea Anne Brown, they see her inviting smile and encouraging attitude. But behind the engaging personality beats the heart of a fiery competitor.
"I've always told her she kills them with kindness. She's very, very competitive. She's won big locally, she won big on the statewide level and she's competed at the national level," said Frank Ford III, president of the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame, which announced Brown will be inducted on Jan. 7, 2012.
Brown, 51, will be the 60th golfer honored and the 14th female member of the Hall of Fame, which is housed in the South Carolina Golf Association headquarters in Irmo.
But the selection was based solely on Brown's accomplishments; Ford said Brown also is being honored for how she has given back to the game.
Sarah Rijswijk, who nominated Brown for the Hall of Fame, calls Brown "an outstanding golfer, a lady, a great sportswoman and a fair competitor. She handles herself well on and off the golf course. She has great respect for the game and for her fellow competitors."
Brown, the membership director at Bulls Bay Golf Club, said she got goose bumps when she received a call telling her she had been selected from South Carolina Golf Association executive director Happ Lathrop.
"As soon as he told me and hung up, I started crying. I got emotional. It was wonderful news. I feel very honored. It's unbelievable," Brown said.
Brown moved to Charleston in 1984 when her husband Hart, now the director of golf at the Country Club of Charleston, took at job at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. She took a job at Seabrook Island Club as the merchandise manager and buyer. Her first big golf victory Brown said, was the 1984 Charleston Women's City Amateur.
"I have to thank Sarah Rijswijk. She called and said 'I understand you're a nice player and we would really like you to play in our City Amateur.' I played and luckily I won. Once I won that tournament, it was like 'I can play and I can win.' I got on a roll," Brown said.
She went on to win the tournament nine consecutive times and, after losing to Jessie Finucan in 1993, came back to win again in 1994 before sitting out for 10 years. Brown has since added three more City Am titles.
Brown said she thought her biggest accomplishment in golf was winning the Women's SCGA Stroke Play and Match Play titles in 1991. It was the first time a golfer had won both tournaments in the same year.
Brown played college golf for two years at Western Kentucky and then finished at the University of Kentucky, where the Wildcats qualified for the NCAA tournament.
"Had my college career gone better, I would have considered turning pro. But I love amateur golf," she said.
"I was always the big fish in the little pond until I went to college. Then I realized how much better these girls were. I have many friends that turned professional but they're back playing amateur golf now."
She gives a lot of credit to her husband, whom she first met at a golf function while she was in college. He is her swing coach and best friend.
Brown doesn't think the Hall of Fame is the end of the line.
"I still think I have some wins in me now that I'm a senior," Brown said. "There are so many more opportunities. My problem is I have to use vacation and really have to pick and choose what tournaments I can play."
BROWN'S GOLF RESUME
Kentucky Junior Girls (1977)
Charleston City Amateur (1984-1992, 1994, 2005, 2006, 2008)
Women's SCGA Stroke Play (1991, 2003, 2005)
Women's SCGA Match Play (1991, 1992, 1994)
S.C. Mixed Team (2004, 2005, 2006)
S.C. Four-Ball (2009)
S.C. Senior Amateur (2010)
Carolyn Cudone Invitational (2007, 2008)
Others: Participated in three USGA Women's Mid-Amateurs, one USGA Senior Women's Amateur, five USGA State Team Championships, nine Carolina-Virginias Team Matches.