by Josh Kerns
For golf fanatic and Washington native Gary Mogg, a trip to Bandon Dunes last March was one of the highlights of his life. And he never hit a single ball.
Mogg was at the resort with his wife to watch two of his three sons compete in the Bandon Dunes Championship, an elite collegiate competition hosted by Gonzaga that brings together some of the top teams from across the western U.S.
Gary’s oldest son Brian, 22, just graduated from Washington State University, where he played all four years on the men’s golf team; while Chris, 20, will be a junior at Gonzaga, playing for their team.
“I would watch nine holes with one boy while my wife Andrea would watch the other, then we’d do a flip flop,” Gary says. “I told my wife, ‘This is so cool and such a blessing.’ I remember thinking this is about as good as it gets.”
It underscored just how close the Mogg family has always been. Seeing his two sons waving at each other across the fairways reminded Gary of his own days as a youth with his brother Brian at their beloved Oakbrook Golf Club in Lakewood, Wash. The pair spent years honing their game under the tutelage of the great PGA pro Glenn Malm.
“I got pretty good, but he got really good,” Gary says of his big brother. “We were always competitive, but I would definitely say I was his biggest fan and he was my biggest fan.”
The name Brian Mogg is recognizable to many. He was one of the state’s top junior golfers, winning numerous tournaments and then earning All-American honors as a standout at Ohio State.
Brian would go on to play several years on the PGA Tour before turning his attention to teaching, ultimately becoming widely recognized as one of America’s top instructors.
Despite his deference to brother Brian, Gary was no slouch on the golf course. He earned a scholarship to WSU and played for four years, then taught for three years before joining the PNGA as the director of rules and competition.
It was in that role Gary convinced one of the biggest names in golf to play as an amateur in the PNGA Men’s Amateur championship.
“I went cat hunting and landed a tiger,” he laughs.
Gary had been tasked by former PNGA executive director John Bodenhamer to scout and bring in top talent for the 1994 championship, to be held that year at Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver, Wash. At the time, Tiger Woods had won three consecutive U.S. Junior championships.
Gary tracked down Tiger’s father Earl and pitched him on the idea of playing in the Pacific Northwest.
“At that time, the PNGA Men’s Amateur was one of the few events you could get Walker Cup points, so I convinced him to come up,” Gary remembers.
He would grow close to the Woods’ that week, chauffeuring them to Royal Oaks and around town.
“It was an incredible week,” Gary says. “He won medalist, then ended up winning the whole thing.”
They stayed in touch over the years, with Earl even writing a letter of recommendation for Gary when he was a finalist for the head coaching job at the University of Washington (he would ultimately be runner-up to longtime UW golf coach OD Vincent).
Although Gary has always lived in the Seattle area, brother Brian would settle in Orlando, Fla. and ultimately build his teaching credentials, firmly establishing himself as one of the best in the business as lead instructor for teaching legend David Leadbetter before branching out on his own.
“Virtually every one of my high moments were when he would come out to caddie,” Brian says. “I always played better when he was on the bag. It’s been special to have my brother there for so many special occasions.”
That continues to this day. Gary was on the bag for Brian in last summer’s Boeing Classic, the PGA Tour Champions event in Snoqualmie, Wash., with Brian getting into the tournament with a sponsor’s exemption.
And despite his role as the head of what’s become an international network of Brian Mogg Golf Academies, including an academy at Chambers Bay, he still has a burning desire to compete and play at a high level. His ultimate dilemma would be qualifying for the PGA Tour Champions and being forced to choose between teaching and playing.
“It’s really cool what I get to do,” Brian says. “I’m just a golfer who gets to help other people play better golf, and sometimes I get to play with them. And I’ve made a ton of great friends. But I still love playing the game.”
For now, though, he’s more focused on one of his promising pupils – his nephew Brian. Uncle Brian regularly reviews video of nephew Brian and offers instruction. It’s just one reason why Gary named his first born after his brother.
“He is my best friend, he’s a very good man, and so to me that was very important, and he had a very cool name,” says Gary, about naming his son after his brother.
Luckily, his wife agreed. Since then, the Moggs have remained close, despite living in opposite corners of the country.
“He’s done so many things for my kids, from helping with golf equipment to writing letters to college golf coaches to getting them into events,” Gary says.
Brian was even instrumental in connecting Gary’s youngest son Matthew with producers of an upcoming Golf Channel documentary on Ben Hogan. Matthew was ultimately cast to play young Byron Nelson in a famous caddie match against Hogan.
“Calling it ‘acting’ may be a bit of a stretch,” Gary says. “He mostly hit some shots as young Byron Nelson. But he had to make a 15-foot putt and the gallery cheered. He had the whole get-up, hickory clubs.” And young Brian served as chaperone for his little brother during the shooting.
Brian hopes he’ll be spending a lot more time with his brother Chris in the future.
After graduating from WSU this summer, Brian played in a number of top events, including the Sahalee Players Championship, Pacific Coast Amateur, Washington State Amateur and the PNGA Men’s Amateur. He then plans to move to Phoenix, turn professional and one day earn his PGA Tour card. All with Chris as his caddie.
“He’s my best friend,” says young Brian. “I tell him everything. We’re just so good together.”
If that happens, you can bet Gary and Andrea will be out there watching and supporting their two oldest boys, just like at Bandon Dunes.
“We’ve been very lucky that they are that close to each other and they still want us around,” Gary says with a smile.
“It’s so awesome to have them all out there,” young Brian says of his family’s continued closeness. “And I hope that one day my kids are playing a sport and I get to go watch them. I can’t think of anything cooler than that.”
Josh Kerns is an Emmy and Murrow award-winning journalist and golf travel writer.