Bracing for a major
Marshalltown native Brandon ‘Toad’ Veld preparing to host 100th PGA Championship
ST. LOUIS — In less than a week, the 100th PGA Championship will be played at Bellerive Country Club in Town and Country, Mo., about five hours southeast of Marshalltown.
Many people have been hard at work preparing the club, course and surroundings for the thousands of spectators that will swarm Bellerive in suburban St. Louis, one of which is 1999 Marshalltown High School graduate Brandon “Toad” Veld.
Veld has worked for Bellerive for the last four years as associate head professional, but he said growing up in Marshalltown set him on the path towards working the 100th PGA Championship.
“It’s a sports town for as small of a town as it is, which is phenomenal,” Veld said. “Golf is one of the more popular sports with two premier golf courses in Elmwood Country Club — which obviously is phenomenal — and then I grew up playing the [American Legion Memorial Golf Course] with my family a little bit more.”
Veld was part of the 1998 Class 4A Bobcat state championship team, but he said playing in tournaments like the Times-Republican City Golf Championship really brought out his love for the game.
“Back when I was there that was the major for the town,” he said. “People came out and loved it, people came from all over to watch us and it was an incredible experience to play in something like that back when I was growing up.”
After graduating from MHS, Veld went to Marshalltown Community College for two years before finishing his degree at the University of Northern Iowa. Once graduated, Veld started his path toward working at Bellerive by working his way through some of the premier courses in Iowa.
“I was at the Harvester (Golf Club in Rhodes) right out of college then Dubuque Country Club for a year,” he said. “Then I kind of bounced around a touch, doing some seasonal positions down in Florida, but it wasn’t until 2006 when I went to Chagrin Valley that I was there for six years, which is the longest stint I’ve done at a facility.”
Veld spent eight years in the Cleveland area working at Chagrin Valley in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, then he went to Portage Country Club in Akron, Ohio, for two years. It was there that Veld first was presented the opportunity to move to Bellerive.
“A lot of it was just dumb luck and the other part of it was just through my networks,” Veld said. “The head golf professional that I had been working for knew (Bellerive golf director) Mike Tucker, I called him when I saw the job posting and he called Mike, and they connected right away.
“I was lucky enough to come out this way and do an interview and obviously everything worked out. It is just an honor to be here, even when I came out they were dangling that carrot of having this major coming, so for it to finally be here, that was a big pull.”
The move didn’t come without sacrifice, however. Veld had to make many tough decisions when it came to moving down to St. Louis from the Cleveland area, including going long distance with his wife, Emma.
“I left her in Cleveland for almost two years while she was finishing her master’s degree so I could pursue this job and ultimately almost have had my dreams fulfilled,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of support and a lot of help, and after next week it will all be worth it.”
When it comes to setting everything up, Veld said he and the rest of the crew from Bellerive have taken more of a backseat role while the PGA does its thing around the course.
“This is kind of their championship and their baby,” he said. “This is an event that they are running, we are obviously there to help in any way that we can but they have been doing a majority of the heavy lifting. We have kind of been supporting and helping them in any way that we can.”
Though not completely in charge of running the event, Veld said he and the rest of the Bellerive PGA professionals will have quite a few duties over the four days of competition next week.
“Come tournament time we will have three main responsibilities,” he said. “We still have to answer the phones, our members obviously can’t play the golf course so we have to get them on other facilities. We are going to be in charge of the Gateway Golf Professionals on the driving range and we will also be hole captains on hole No. 18, which is an incredible honor. We will be there with the military and the PGA Hope Foundation. That’s probably one of the neatest things that we are going to be a part of that week.”
This is the third time Bellerive has hosted a major and the first since the 1992 PGA Championship. In preparation for the Championship, Veld said the course hasn’t been completely open to its members for some time now, but it is also in tip-top shape.
“I was out there [on Tuesday] while we were doing a few things with TaylorMade, the golf course is, pristine doesn’t even say enough about it,” Veld said. “We have been on temporary hole locations for the entire month of July and really nobody wanted to play those and nobody kind of did play. The grounds crew has been out there tirelessly taking care of the course and we’ve had phenomenal weather the last couple of weeks. The course is in the best condition I personally have ever seen it, and I know Mike Tucker — our director of golf who has been here for 25 years — would say the same thing.”
Of course there is still some nerves when it comes to hosting an event this size, but Veld said the level of preparation both his crew and the PGA have put in should make the Championship go off without a hitch.
“We are looking to obviously put on a great show, Bellerive is going to be in the spotlight — not just nationally, but globally,” he said. “It will be all over TV for the entire week and we are obviously a little worried just because there are some things that are out of our control. If Mother Nature decides she’s taking over there’s nothing we can do about that, but you still have that kind of fear in the back of your mind. We along with the PGA, we have our t’s crossed and our i’s dotted, we are rocking and rolling and ready for this championship.”
From playing in the City Open and competing for an Iowa state championship to now being a part of the 100th PGA Championship, Veld said he’s accomplished more in his career than he ever imagined.
“Never thought that would be possible,” he said. “I was thinking about the golf business for sure, I actually started at the Legion picking the range and worked my way up to being in the shop there. To even think a young man from a town like Marshalltown with 27,000 people, to have the dream to work at a facility such as Bellerive was just out of my realm of thinking at that part of time.”