Gwilym S. Brown, a reporter and writer for this magazine since 1954, died of a brain tumor on Aug. 12 at the age of 46. We want to share with you a few memories of him, as much to assuage a loss we feel deeply as to salute a fine man.
Gwil was as much an athlete as the people he wrote about, and his understanding of sport and its challenges was reflected in his stories. When he was assigned to golf in 1956 he had never played the game. He bought some clubs and began spending his weekends at public courses. Brown carefully recorded every stroke and never threw away a scorecard, so it is possible to state with authority that on Oct. 12, 1956 at Spring Lake on Staten Island he shot a 59-72-131. Within three years he was in the low 80s. You would often find him in the hallway outside his office practicing his swing, enthusiastic about some new discovery that would give him more distance off the tee.
He was also covering important golf stories such as the 1960 World Amateur Team Championship at Merion, during which a young amateur named Jack Nicklaus shot successive rounds of 66, 67, 68 and 68. The two became good friends, and Brown co-authored many articles with Nicklaus, who said last week, "Gwil had great talent and enthusiasm. He was a pleasure to work with. I'll miss him a lot." Out of another golf assignment came his collaboration with the late Tony Lema on the book Golfer's Gold, as fine a description of life on the pro tour as has been written.
When SI assigned Brown to track and field, he took up running, and before long his office walls were cluttered with notes of achievement: "Ran two miles in 11:28" or "Did 10 in 67:43." For three years, beginning in 1965, he ran in the Boston Marathon. Among his track articles was a cover story on Jim Ryun after the latter's record-breaking 3:51.3 mile at Berkeley, Calif. in July 1966. Brown persuaded the youthful, rather shy Ryun to go over his training routine in detail for the entire month leading up to the record race, and a page of the young runner's personal log was reproduced in the magazine. "Gwil worked harder at a story than most people," Ryun said. "He knew his subject and you could tell he cared about it."
September 1, 1974
In 1967 Brown was assigned to London for three years to cover the European sporting scene. There he did stories on subjects as varied as the troubles and triumphs of skier Jean-Claude Killy, the elegantly dressed spectators at England's Royal Ascot, even a world bowling championship in Paris. During his stay in London he decided that the half mile, not the marathon, was his best distance, and friends in New York began receiving communiqués announcing "dramatic improvements" and "punishing workouts over a demanding course." By the time he returned to New York he had lowered his time to 2:16 (at age 42) for the half and was running in Masters meets.
Brown's last story appeared in the Aug. 5 issue. It concerned a new method for rating tennis players. Gwil enjoyed playing tennis and was working on his serve.