POSTED: January 2015
Nobody would mistake Adam Brennan for a scratch golfer.
It took the Franklin County Technical School senior from Northfield three years as a member of the school’s golf team before he finally played in a match last year. This year he only played in four out of 15 matches. No, Brennan is not going to be the next Tiger Woods.
Although he didn’t play in a match until junior year, Brennan was determined to get on the course to help his team and when he did it was a dream come true.
“I wanted to make my first golf match and I knew I’d get there eventually,” he said. “On the first hole I was nervous, but I felt pretty good. I was excited. Then you forget about it and move on. It’s just a game; your life doesn’t depend on it.”
What Brennan lacks in golf skills, he makes up for in heart, character, determination, courage, kindness, and generosity. His golf coach Sean Knightly and his teammates have the utmost admiration for Brennan because of these qualities which he demonstrates on the course and off.
Knightly said one of things he admires about Brennan is his willingness to go out of his way to help other players.
“Adam is shy, funny, smart and well liked,” Knightly said. “He’s a positive player who’s always smiling. For a guy who wouldn’t get much playing time, he was always excited to play, whether it was in practice or a tournament. He was caring, whether it was about new team members or team morale. I even saw him caring about players from other teams. If someone wasn’t playing well Adam would tell him to keep his chin up.”
Brennan, 17, has literally had to fight all of his life. He was born severely underweight and with cerebral palsy, and had to undergo four surgeries on his legs, which has caused him to walk with a severe limp.
“Adam was born 11 weeks early and he weighed 2 lbs., 14.7 ounces,” said his mother Claire Brennan. “He was in preschool when he had his first surgery. He was pigeon-toed. They broke both of his legs, turned them, pinned them, and lengthened his hamstrings. He was in full leg casts. He went to preschool in a wheelchair.”
Brennan also had surgeries on his left foot in 2012 and on his right foot in 2013 to lengthen the ligaments in his feet and ankles. The 2013 surgery included a lengthening of his Achilles tendon.
“From the first- through fifth grades, Adam had to have physical therapy,” Claire Brennan said. “He had pins and screws in his legs and feet. It was brutal. Adam never complained. He’s never wondered what he could or could not do. He’s happy and easy going. He was the one who initiated the last two operations.”
Besides his mother, Brennan is the son of Denis, a senior master sergeant in the National Guard, who works in munitions at Barnes Air National Guard Base, and he has a sister Cara, 15, a sophomore at Pioneer Valley Regional School. Claire Brennan is a special education teacher and runs the inclusion program at Pioneer Valley Regional.
Claire Brennan said her son always wanted to play sports, but because of his issues with maintaining balance, golf was the only one available to him.
“Just because I’m disabled, it doesn’t mean I can’t do what other people do,” Adam Brennan said.
When Brennan went to middle school at Pioneer Valley Regional, he joined the golf team in the seventh grade. He never played in a match though, but was determined to keep trying.
“I came to Franklin County Tech and wanted to stick with it and see if it worked out,” he said. “I thought in the back of my head that I would play. In middle school I was the last person picked, but I had a feeling it would change when I got here.”
Because of his difficulty walking, Brennan was offered a golf cart in all of the matches he played in, but he refused and opted to carry his golf clubs like all of the other players. But, it took him much longer to do things like climb slopes and hills on the golf course.
“I didn’t want to be the guy that gets special treatment,” he said. “I didn’t need a cart. I can do it. There are certain points where I don’t want to be noticed. I want to be treated like everyone else.”
There was one time during a match when Brennan lost his balance and took a tumble on a small hill. As Knightly approached him, Brennan just stood up, picked up his clubs and concentrated on his next shot.
“It wasn’t always easy for him to walk the course,” Knightly said. “But, it was hard to gauge where he was physically because he never complained.”
Brennan’s finest moment on the golf course came this season when he won a point for his team to help Franklin County Technical School win a tournament against Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School. He beat his opponent on the first hole and on holes 4, 5, and 6 to secure the point.
“On the bus ride home the whole team was chanting his name,” Knightly said. “One of our players said Adam is always smiling and is the first one to ask others how their day is going, no matter how his day is going. Players look at Adam as one of the team leaders because of his positive attitude and never give up philosophy. Adam is a fighter.”
Brennan will graduate from Franklin County Technical School in June, and no matter what he does in the future, Knightly is sure he will make a positive contribution to the lives of others.
“I can see Adam being a coach,” he said. “He’d be an excellent coach or teacher. He has patience and a love of the game. I hope he works with people in some way because his attitude is infectious. He’s positive, supportive and encouraging. He’s one of the most inspirational players I’ve ever seen. You like being around a guy like that.”
Claire Brennan has watched her son develop into the fine young man that he is. He’s a role model, although he insists he isn’t one. Adam earned the respect, not only of his coach and teammates, but also of opposing players and coaches.
“He’s a pretty amazing kid,” his mother said. “It’s his attitude that I’m the most amazed about. He never says a bad word about anyone. He’s always so happy, upbeat and kind.”