Braith Anasta didn’t make his name in golf. The New South Welshman enjoying a 14-year first grade rugby league career, winning a premiership and regularly playing for his state and country.
Since hanging up his boots in 2014 however, the 38-year-old has turned his hand to media work with Fox Sports and player management. His company Searoo Sports, handling the affairs of a number of up and coming golfers, including Aussies Dimitrios Papadatos, Daniel Gale and Kiwi Ben Campbell.
The switch to golf management is an understandable one for the former Bulldogs, Roosters and Tigers five-eighth and lock. Anasta possessing a low single figure handicap for much of his life, that has at times dipped into plus numbers, and teeing it up in local professional and elite amateur events, as well as owning five hole-in-ones before the age of 20.
Like many top athletes in other fields, the opportunities to play top courses and with top players have been plentiful. But what moments in golf stick out most for Anasta?
“I’ve got lots of great memories from golf,” Anasta told Golf Australia magazine.
“Before I played first grade I loved it more than footy, honestly. I was hooked on it. I gave up footy for a year when I was 15 to play golf for the year. Played Jack Newton and all those sorts of things. That’s where I met Aron Price and James Nitties and Ewan Porter and all those blokes.
RIGHT: Despite making a living and a name in Rugby League, Anasta has a long and interesting history in the game of golf. PHOTO: Mark Nolan/Getty Images.
“I’ve got a distant one when I was 14 or 15, winning a King Cobra driver. I got beaten by Pricey in a playoff. That is one of my first ever memories of tournament golf, when I really loved it.
“I was playing a lot, I had just really started playing and had the bug. That is one story that always sticks with me. I remember being in the playoff with him and I was mates with him then and now business partners now, and he just hits it so straight.
“It was a Jack Newtown Junior Golf event at Bondi Golf Club. It was a small course, we were only kids, so you played the nine holes twice. I think at the time it probably suited me because I grew up on Randwick, maybe just liked the shorter course.
“I just remember it clearly because it was one of my first real tournaments and I remember the King Cobra back then and Greg Norman was my favourite golfer. Greg was my hero, my idol of idols. He was absolutely my idol. And winning his driver, I thought ‘How good is this!’
"He’s a superstar and I’m just a Derek footy player, he had no idea who I was, and it was honestly like you were playing with one of your good mates." - Braith Anasta.
“Then obviously, Pricey went on to be a PGA Tour player. So it’s a memory that is ingrained in me forever. To be in that position but then to one day see the guy that beat you playing on the PGA Tour was cool.
“Another was playing with Ernie Els in the Pro-Am of the Fiji International.
“He’s a hero of mine, I remember watching him going down the stretch with Adam Scott at The Open, and obviously he’s a freak. To get the invite from the Aussie PGA to play with him was a dream come true.
“I caddied for Matty Stieger that week. It was the first time I had done it. I had only just started the management company. And Matty was a member at St Michaels, so I used to see him all the time and got along with him really well. And so when I started the company up, I just asked him if he needed any help because I was passionate about helping him because I had known him for so long. And then he said I would love to come on board with you. Then he said ‘Can you caddie for me in Fiji?’
“I had to get approval from Fox Sports to get off work, but they incorporated that into their coverage of the golf tournament. Played with him on the Pro-Am day then caddied for Matty the rest of the week, it was a great week.
“Ernie’s ball-striking was just pure, he just hits darts. But it’s more his temperament, the guy is unflappable, we have all seen that over a long time.
“He is just such a good guy, he is so cool and calm. If he hit an average shot, it was the same reaction as if he hit a great shot. Same temperament, same pre shot routine on the next one and he always had a smile on his face. And that for me, it relates to all sport, but especially golf, is your temperament is a big thing and I try and tell the guys I manage now that.
“And he was just a great guy. He’s a superstar and I’m just a Derek footy player, he had no idea who I was, and it was honestly like you were playing with one of your good mates. He was so chilled, very open, told me about Tiger and being close with Tiger, I tried to ask for some stories and get some goss but he didn’t give me much.
“From a personal playing standpoint, I shot six under about two years ago. It came from nowhere, that’s probably like a golfing highlight personally. It was in the comp at St Michaels, my lowest round ever.
“I was hitting it sideways for like two or three years. Post footy, I kind of gave it up a bit, I didn’t play much, then I couldn’t get it back. I just lost my swing for about three or four years. I was hitting it sideways, then one day it all just came together.
“I didn’t miss a putt and I just got hot. Bogeyed the last for six under. That would be my best golfing score and moment.”
Just like every other golfer, Anasta’s highs in the games have been matched by lows. The worst moment of his golf career one that played out in front of a crowd with far more scrutiny than the average player has to deal with at the NSW PGA Championship in 2011. His efforts in the 2015 Australian Amateur similarly on the low light reel.
“I’m just a tragic golfer, but at the end of that I was turned off tournament golf. I love the game, but it’s not going to happen.” - Braith Anasta.
“The NSW PGA, I was playing first grade rugby league full-time, I think we might have even made the GF (Grand Final) that year, but I was a full-time league player.
“Someone contacted me, I was playing of plus two at St Michaels and doing it easy, it was club golf but. I was playing two comps a week, I’m shooting around even to a couple under each week, then someone said ‘Why don’t you play in the PGA, we will give you an exemption’ because they were struggling with publicity.
“We were trying to get some eyes on it and get people to go watch, it was more about growing the game than me playing professional golf. I never, ever wanted to be a pro golfer. I was never going to be good enough, I knew all that.
“But, I didn’t prepare like a pro, I mean I went and played golf, and just thought I would transition from St Michaels playing comp to a pro tournament. It just doesn’t happen. It’s not realistic. I learnt that the hard way.
“I was flushing it, I was hitting it well, but my short game … it’s actually a good story … because I was working with Gary Barter on my game at the time and still do, and I was hitting as good as ever, and about a week before, I said ‘Gaz, we should do some work on my short game’.
“We went and did some chipping and he says ‘Oh shit, Braith, we’ve got some work to do.’ This is a week out and I’m thinking ‘Oh no’.
“Then I got to the tournament date and round one I hit 14 or 13 greens, I didn’t play bad, but if I missed the green I was so nervous I would flub or duff the chip, I was missing three footers, three putting from 12 feet, I had about 38 putts. I was shaking over the ball, I got rattled, I just shit myself. And it was horrible to be honest.
“For me it was disappointing because I knew I was a lot better than that.
“And I copped a lot of flak over it and all that. But the reality was I was just an amateur golfer trying to give a bit of publicity and have a whack, the nerves got the better of me and I didn’t play well.
“But the Aussie Amateur, my goal was after I retired from footy was to play some amateur golf and I wanted to try and pre-q for a tournament like the NSW PGA on my own bat without an exemption just to prove something to myself.
“I thought I will start playing a lot as soon as I retire, I’ll get back into it and I will give it a crack. But I got too excited.
“I had a full bicep rupture which forced me into retirement from footy, so I had a six month injury and six months till the Aussie Amateur. So, I’m rushing into recovery trying to get my bicep right for the Aussie Amateur. Me again being silly, underestimating how big the Aussie Amateur is too.
“It comes good in about four months so I have about six weeks to do some prep. And I couldn’t prep properly and I reinjured it pretty much the week before and then I tried to play and after three or four holes I couldn’t swing it. So I walked off, I said ‘Sorry guys, I’m out’.
I got too excited.
“I’m just a tragic golfer, but at the end of that I was turned off tournament golf. I love the game, but it’s not going to happen.”