by Andrew Blair
Millions of people know golf personality and world-renowned instructor Michael Breed from his popular television show called “The Golf Fix” which airs weekly on Golf Channel. Very few, however, realize that Breed is a Randolph-Macon College graduate.
Truth be told, Breed (’85) traces part of his successes today to his college years at R-MC where he was a four-year starter on the golf team from 1981-85 and regularly played at the top of the team’s lineup. Then as now, he had almost manic-like enthusiasm, especially for sports. In addition to golf, he was a starter on the baseball team and once pitched back-to-back games one right-handed and one left-handed.
A standout baseball player in high school growing up in Greenwich, Conn., Breed says he was equally adept on the diamond than on the links when he entered college. Randolph-Macon recruited him to play baseball and golf.
Breed’s energy was obvious from the infancy of his time at R-MC. In the first semester of his freshman year, he played four varsity baseball games, four varsity golf matches and three varsity tennis matches. He even had a short-lived stint on the football team as a junior, though his gridiron career lasted for only about a month.
“After getting destroyed in a practice game, I quickly told Coach (Jim) Blackburn that Division III football was not going to lead to a professional career, but golf was going to,” Breed says with a laugh.
Later in his penultimate year of college, Breed set his sights squarely on golf. And why not? Breed was the No. 1 player on the Yellow Jackets’ squad for three years and was honored as team captain as a senior in 1985. His coach was Ted Keller whom Breed credits with helping to shape him as a person as much as a PGA professional.
Today, though he’s readily recognizable as one of the best teachers anywhere, Breed prefers to share the spotlight with others who’ve impacted him like Keller, an R-MC legend. Keller was the Yellow Jackets’ head football coach from 1964-1982, amassing a record of 105-56-5. Keller was also the college’s head golf coach from 1964-2002, and served as the school's athletic director from 1982 to 1996. For Breed, though, Keller’s impact belies records, achievements and titles.
Keller died in April 2009, but in paying tribute to his memory, in 2011, Breed and his family endowed a fund for the men's golf program in honor of Keller called the Ted Keller Endowment for Men's Golf.
“Ted Keller was a great mentor, a great coach and a great friend,” says Breed, a member of the R-MC’s Athletics Hall of Fame. “I just loved the man. It’s the reason we set up the endowment. I loved the guy. I was honored to be a captain of his team. I was privileged to play underneath him.
“I am grateful for everything that Randolph-Macon gave to me, particularly in the golf space with what Ted Keller did and the opportunities that fell to me. I wanted to be a part of giving back.”
After graduating, Breed stayed connected to Coach Keller and the program as both a quasi assistant / program advocate from the mid-1980s to the mid-’90s. Knowing that golf courses were limited in the immediate area near campus, Breed remained undeterred, often visiting with professionals at different courses in central Virginia and beyond to see if the R-MC golf team could use the facilities for team members to play or practice.
Even now, Breed remains linked with the golf program in various other ways, including donating equipment from the industry’s leading manufacturers and aiding with player and program-development needs. In particular, Breed emphasizes that “I would not have been able to do the things that I’ve been able to do without the support of Titleist and FootJoy.”
Breed’s rise to prominence traces its genesis to 1996 when he was a PGA teaching professional in Connecticut. There, he used his extensive imagination and enviable foresight to develop a pilot for a cable television golf show. It was originally entitled “A New Breed of Golf.”
Coincidentally, as his schedule availed, Breed worked as an on-course commentator for Golf Channel starting in 1999. When the network went searching for an idea for a television show in 2002, Breed handed executives the pilot to “A New Breed of Golf.” The result? The pilot began the process of gathering cobwebs in the dark recesses of someone’s desk drawer.
That was until 2008 when producers at Golf Channel gave the pilot and Breed the go-ahead and “The Golf Fix” was subsequently born in 2009.
Now in its ninth season, “The Golf Fix” has swelled—‘exploded’ might be a more apt word—in popularity and is broadcast to more than 80 countries. Breed has more than 39,500 followers on Twitter. But know this about Breed: He didn’t just fall into his role as host of “The Golf Fix” one day. No, he worked at a number of different clubs, including Augusta National, putting in frighteningly long hours, doing the laborious deeds that no one sees but everyone notices when not given proper attention. All the while, Breed was honing his teaching skills and later spent 12 years (2001-12) as the PGA head golf professional at Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale, N.Y.
His passion for the game are on full display during “The Golf Fix” episodes that air every Monday where seemingly every word carries a meaningful cadence, every step has a purpose. If you hear a voice bellowing from the television, ‘I want you to do this! I don’t want this!’ you can bet that it’s Breed.
Breed is ranked among the No. 13 among Golf Digest’s most recent listing of America’s best teachers in the country and was honored as the 2012 PGA of America National Teacher of the Year. He is on Golf Magazine’s list of top 100 instructors. He’s published three books and DVDs, an array of training aids and his instructional columns have appeared in a number of publications. He was the Metropolitan PGA teacher of the year in 2000 and 2009.
Breed readily acknowledges that there’s no magical elixir behind his success; people of all walks of life have to stay engaged to have an impact, he believes. That same philosophy helped provide the impetus behind his ‘Let’s do this!’ moniker that has become a cornerstone of both his instruction and approach when it comes to goal-setting and taking on projects. When wife, Kerri, whom Michael married in 2010, gave birth to their son, William Alan Breed in 2012, Dad tweeted, ‘She did this!!’ The couple has two boys—William is now 5 and Michael Jr. is 4.
As an instructor, Breed is ranked as the No. 1 teacher in the state of New York by Golf Digest. His base is at Trump National Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx, a public access facility that is a co-op between the city of New York and the Trump organization. It’s also where Breed’s golf academy is located. Breed’s chief priority is growing the game and making golf enjoyable for players of all skill levels which is a big reason why he enjoys teaching at a club that anyone can access. That said, Breed knows he’s in the public spotlight.
“Being at a public facility in the arena that I’m in is a very, very valuable thing,” Breed says. “Look, people are going to love who you’re with and they’re going to hate who you’re with. Right? That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s being involved with the Trump organization or being involved with a private facility.”
Breed is sought after at nearly every turn and has hopscotched to nearly every continent, teaches tour players, 30-handicaps and has worked with presidents, heads of state, celebrities, CEOs—even royalty. He keeps his list of students in his stable private other than to say “I’ve been very fortunate.”
Breed estimates that there are regularly 50 or more items on his to-do list at any one time. Some ideas relate to instruction, but many other items deal with being a perspective provider.
“Listen, I love helping people. I just love it,” Breed underscores. “I’m fortunate that I get to go to places that others don’t have the chance to go to. For me to be able to go, ‘Hey, this is what I see. This is what I’d do in this situation. This may help.’ It may be a branding situation, a range mat or whatever—whatever—I’m going to try to help. That’s the way the parents raised me. My whole family is the same way—whatever we can do to help.”
Breed’s willingness to offer assistance was knit into he and his three siblings’ souls at an early age by their parents. He has two brothers—Alan, who works and lives in Greenwich, Conn., and Giff, who is the president of Pros Inc., which owns and operates Independence Golf Club in Midlothian, Va. His sister Becky lives in McLean, Va., with her husband and five children.
The four grew up and played sports together around the same time. Though they are now separated geographically, the family remains tight. And they don’t mind poking and prodding one another—all good-naturedly and out of love, of course. Cue Giff’s story about an interesting interaction between the two when Michael was playing baseball as a freshman at Randolph-Macon and Giff, a senior at the University of Richmond at the time, was umpiring first base. It all started when Michael hit a little roller up along first.
“He was out by about 10 feet and I called him out. To this day, he hasn’t forgiven me,” Giff deadpans with an audible chuckle. “He still thinks he was safe—and he’s still arguing that he was safe!”
Proving that there was no permanent harm done, when Giff worked as a sports agent, he represented some of Michael’s business interests relative to the golf industry. Giff notes that when one family member succeeds they all share in the joy.
“Couldn’t be prouder—all of us—in what all of the siblings have accomplished, not just Michael, but what everybody has accomplished,” Giff says. “He’s made the most of ‘The Golf Fix.’ He’s pretty good at it and he enjoys it a lot.”
These days, no matter where his travels take him, Breed always carries a part of Yellow Jacket pride with him. He regularly checks in on the happenings at R-MC with director of athletics Jeff Burns, head football coach Pedro Arruza and other coaches.
“There is always Randolph-Macon in me,” Breed exclaims. “I can tell you this: Every single Saturday, I’m watching the football team on my iPad and every single Friday, when I get my update from Coach Arruza on what’s going on, I’m reading it. I’ll tell you something about Coach Arruza: When I reach back to Coach Arruza and say, ‘Good luck this week, coach,’ he will send me an e-mail that says, ‘Thanks, Michael.’ Every single time I’ve sent an e-mail to him, he has responded back. (Randolph-Macon) has an amazing coach. Jeff Burns and I have talked about it. I’m a big fan of his.”
With his fame has come plenty of attention and accompanying demands on his time, but Breed keeps it all in perspective and has arduously and consistently supported Randolph-Macon. Burns can tick off a grocery list of items, both seen and unseen, that Breed has backed or fronted financially to aid the school.
“He is extremely connected. He’s incredibly busy. He is raising a young family. He has business ventures all over the world and he manages to listen and pay attention to our games, calls and writes to coaches after games. He is involved with the (Ted Keller) athletic endowment that he and his family started,” Burns says. “He is a supporter of the golf program in a financial setting with our sponsorship of the Annual Yellow Jacket Classic Golf Tournament, which is our athletic fundraiser. He donates golf balls, equipment. He was recently asked to do something else—a major fundraiser for the men’s and women’s golf programs—and he’s all in. He is still very interested, active and appreciates where he came from.”
Turns out the Randolph-Macon-Breed bond is a win-win. Some of Breed’s heartiest teaching techniques were born out of his time at Randolph-Macon where he was a psychology major.
“I cannot tell you that Randolph-Macon taught me how to teach,” Breed says. “What I can tell you is that my psychology degree has taught me a lot of things that I can’t even tell you that I do that I do, so I’m sure the Randolph-Macon education was immensely valuable to that.”
To this day, Breed admits that a course he took as an undergraduate at R-MC on coaching basketball led by Hal Nunnally who spent 24 years at the helm of the Yellow Jackets’ men’s basketball program and led his teams to the NCAA Tournament on 10 occasions. During that time, all but two players from his teams received their degrees from Randolph-Macon. In hindsight, Breed admits that the class and the coaching legend honed his aptitude for instruction, but also imbued in him a life lesson that remains with him to this day.
“Hal Nunnally gave me something that I live by and share in almost every single talk that I give and 100 percent of the talks that I give to juniors which is something he used called, ‘Don’t embarrass the program.’ ” Breed says. “It’s a very, very valuable thing that I live my life by. I mean, it’s literally had a profound effect on not just how I teach, not just how I speak, but how I live my life. The more I got into the instructional space, the more valuable it’s been in what I do.
‘Don’t embarrass the program’ basically is that every single entity that you associate with—whether it is a town, a college, a parent, a child, a state, a club or whatever it may be—you make sure that your behavior doesn’t embarrass that entity.”
Breed puts the lesson plainly.
“If you were caught doing whatever it is that you are doing, would it embarrass the program? And if it did, don’t do it,” Breed underscores.
Breed may bleed Yellow Jacket lemon and black, but his soul is coated red, white and blue. Breed is actively engaged in helping to re-immerse service members back into society after they return from war, many of them wounded either physically, mentally or, more often than not, both. Ultimately, Breed sees golf as a bridge in through his principle involvement with PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) and Folds of Honor, among other charities that impact those who selflessly serve in the U.S. military. Both programs offer support and, perhaps just as vital, provide promise and possibility to members of the military and their families. Breed admits that the service members inspire him equally, if not more tangibly, than he impacts their lives.
Among his many other passions is junior golf. The Breed family will be hosting a Virginia-based College Prep Golf Tour event on Nov. 11-12 at Independence called the Breed Junior Invitational. It’s not surprising to see him being a part of paying it forward on the golf front in a variety of ways. That’s because in doing so, Breed is honoring one of the most important tenants of the game and the world—leave it better than you found it.
“It sounds so corny, but the game of golf has done so much to help … look at what the game has done for my life,” Breed says. “And I know it can do wonderful things for juniors and I know it can do wonderful things for those who have gone and fought for our freedom—and everybody in between.”