March 25, 1961 –
During the 1973 Charity Golf Classic at Woodhaven Country Club—Fort Worth’s annual stop on the LPGA Tour from 1973-75—Polly Riley brought a smaller bag for her twelve-year-old caddie. Riley believed her undersized caddie, Mark Brooks, could not carry her regular tour bag. Instead, he relished the challenge, had no problem carrying her bag, and learned about his own ability.
Twenty-three years later in front of a cheering crowd at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, Brooks birdied a par-five eighteenth hole, forcing a playoff with local favorite Kenny Perry. Brooks accepted the challenge, two-putting on the playoff hole for a birdie. He won the 1996 PGA Championship.
The victory opened doors for Brooks as a golfer. He signed a new endorsement deal but a number of poor outings revealed that his new clubs did not suit his swing mechanics. Rather than have his performance suffer, he quickly broke off the lucrative endorsement and returned to forged-blade irons. Brooks admitted to learning “an important lesson” about himself and his game.
He also became more deliberate in his play, earning numerous warnings for slow play in the instantaneous age of television. His four PGA wins came in playoff matches that depended on his ability to analyze and correct himself as much as raw physical talent. “It's not all heart. You've got to think,” Brooks admitted, “and I would say my brain is my biggest asset.”
Brooks has won seven PGA tournaments, becoming only the third Fort Worth native to win a major tournament on the tour, joining legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. He remains competitive on the PGA Tour.
In addition to golf, Brooks has created initiatives to help troubled teens in the Fort Worth area, including the Marks Brooks Foundation and the W. Hal Brooks Memorial Golf Tournament and Gala named in honor of his minister-father. The foundation still exists but the gala no longer takes place. Even so, during the eleven years the gala occurred (1988-1999) the foundation raised almost three million dollars for various metroplex causes, including "Family Services" and Teens in Crisis.