CINCINNATI -- It started out as a friendly rivalry between father and son -- a charity event to benefit a good cause.
But somewhere along the way, it erupted into a cutthroat, cage-match competition on the greens where two teams go to extremes to claim the coveted trophy.
We’re talking Brennaman vs. Brennanman.
Father vs. Son.
Marty vs. Thom.
“I think every year we’ve played, either my team or Thom’s won,” Reds radio play-by-play man Marty Brennaman said with a chuckle. “That’s why we have to have separate competition, one for us and one for everybody else.”
Is it just genetics that make the Brennamans impossible to defeat, or could it be recruited players in years past including Ryder Cup champ Brett Wetterich, PGA/local pro Jim Volpenhein and a former American Long Drive champion to name a few?
The senior Brennaman said one thing he’s learned during his four-plus decade career broadcasting sports is to stack your team with the best players.
“As a matter of fact, we do have pro golfers, and we’ve been known to sometimes cross state lines to get them,” Marty Brennaman boasted.
Last year, Marty’s team took the trophy. He said the victory left Thom’s team reeling, willing to sink to desperate measures to retake the title. He accused his son’s team member, Reds broadcaster Chris Welsh, of outright piracy, resorting to underhanded tactics to recruit players.
“This year, Chris Welsh has sunk to an all-time new low,” Marty said. "He stole one of my best players right out from under me.”
But according to Welsh, Marty dropped the ball by simply expecting players like PGA/local pro golfer Cody Martin to return to his team without actually asking him. A month out, Welsh said Marty Brennaman still hadn’t contacted Martin, allowing Team Thom to make its move.
“It’s like a baseball general manager pursuing a free agent -- the guy that goes to sleep is the guy that loses out on the ace player,” Welsh said.
While Welsh won’t outright accuse Marty of breaking rules, he said he does feel as though Team Thom has been the victim of some “shady dealings” on the golf course. He claims he shot a video at last year’s event revealing Marty’s team violated tournament guidelines with seven players instead of five on the green putting.
“What does it really say about a guy who wins his own tournament -- he puts on a charity tournament and wins it himself,” Welsh said. “So really all we’re trying to do is save Marty the embarrassment of winning his own tournament. That’s our motivation is to save Marty from himself.”
So what started the rivalry?
Thom said after moving back to the Tri-State in 2007 to join the Reds' broadcast team, he decided to play in his dad’s tournament. The younger Brennaman admitted to not being the most talented golfer, so he recruited buddies to play on his team. After beating his dad right out of the gate, he said there was no turning back.
“It’s very basic. This thing was a nice, friendly rivalry and he was unhappy about getting his tail kicked and upped the ante,” Thom said. "We’re more than willing to join in on that, if this is like the former arms race between U.S. and the old Soviet Union, so be it.”
Because of NFL broadcasting commitments, the younger Brennaman said he hasn’t been able to compete in a tournament for several years, passing the "team celebrity" designation to Welsh. He said he acts solely as team owner now, with Mount Adams Bar and Grill and Blind Lemon owner Eddie Sheppard acting as general manger. Because he’s so far removed from daily operations, Thom said he knew nothing about his dad’s accusation of his team stealing players.
“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” he said. “But I did tell our general manger his job is on the line if he doesn’t get that trophy back.”
Sheppard seemed unfazed by the threat, certain his team will claim victory this year. He explained his team has the competitive edge because of personality, charm and good looks — in addition to the talent. But Sheppard said Thom’s biggest asset is Marty himself.
“Marty’s game is so bad, his personal game is so bad, if I were him I would consider taking up shuffleboard,” Sheppard said.
Kidding aside, Brennaman’s tournament raises more than $200,000 each year for the Reds Community Fund. For all players other than the Brennamans, the golf scramble includes one of 50 former Reds or broadcast celebrities and four players on each team, Sunday evening dinner, a comedy show and four rooms at Belterra Resort.
The following week, both Brennamans and Welsh will square off again, competing in the Second Annual Kilee Brookbank Celebrity Golf Tournament Sept. 15 at Elks Run Golf Course in Batavia. Depending on the outcome of Brennaman’s tournament, will their grudge match carry forward to that next event?
“I would say the only event that I play in that’s really competitive is my own tournament,” Marty Brennaman said. “We probably have more charity golf tournaments here than any other city in the country. We have one here pretty much every weekend. Cincinnati is a great charitable city that way.”