Just how exclusive is The Country Club in Brookline? We’re about to find out.
Word around the club’s meticulously manicured grounds is that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel spouse, Gisele Bundchen, whose mansion is just an errant tee shot away, would like to join. But it’s not clear if the club famous for understatement and insularity will accept the glamorous power couple as members.
Why? Because the 133-year-old institution prizes privacy and discretion above all else. And Brady and Bundchen, trailed as they often are by paparazzi, and occasionally controversy, attract the sort of attention abhorred by the multimillionaires who belong to the primrose playground on Clyde Street in Chestnut Hill.
“I don’t know what they’ll do about Brady,” said a prominent Boston businessperson who is amused by the club’s predicament. Like any bastion of Brahmin privilege, “The Country Club believes your name should appear in the newspaper just two times: When you’re born and when you die.”
Two members of the club, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the couple’s application but say a decision is not imminent.
“When it comes to issues related to members or membership, it’s our policy not to comment,” said David Chag, the general manager of The Country Club and de facto spokesman. “It’s a private club, and we don’t answer those kinds of questions.”
Established in 1882 as an equestrian and social club, with golf added a decade later, The Country Club of Brookline — or TCC — has an impressive pedigree.
“What the MFA is to art and the BSO is to music, The Country Club is to clubs,” the Globe Sunday Magazine mused in 1999. And it’s true. As one of five clubs to found the United States Golf Association, The Country Club hosted the US Open in 1913, 1963, and 1988 and will likely host it again in 2022.
Ranked No. 19 by Golf Digest on a list of America’s 100 greatest golf courses, TCC hosted the Ryder Cup in 1999 and was discussed as a venue for the 2024 Olympics, if the Games end up in Boston. In addition to 27 holes of golf, the club boasts indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a curling rink, an Olympic-size swimming pool, skeet range, cross-country skiing trails, and a skating pond, where Olympic champ Tenley Albright practiced before the 1956 Games.
Besides the Pats quarterback and his wife, homeowners in the pricey neighborhood include real estate developer Jonathan Davis, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Reebok founder Paul Fireman, who, in the late 1990s, built a sprawling, 25,000-square-foot mansion adjacent to the club, to much harrumphing by TCC members.
The club has a well-deserved reputation for being exclusive — some would say exclusionary — when it comes to its members. Consider this: No Jews were admitted until the 1970s, no women (as full members) until 1989, and no blacks until 1994. In his memoir, “A Reason To Believe,’’ former governor Deval Patrick revealed that he and his wife, Diane, were rejected — “blackballed,’’ he wrote — by The Country Club.
According to the club’s website, TCC currently has 1,300 members, but good luck trying to get the list of names. That’s privileged information safeguarded by the club like the United States protects its nuclear codes.
As ever, it seems the first rule of The Country Club is: Do not talk about The Country Club.
“It’s really about who you are. Do you have good values?” one member said. “It’s that old New England mentality.”
Members say Brady and Bundchen, who live in a new multimillion-dollar home they built near Pine Manor College, are being treated like any other applicants. Their enormous wealth — she’s worth $320 million, according to Forbes, and he’s not far behind — is irrelevant, members insist. And Brady’s status as a local hero with four Super Bowl rings is also meaningless when it comes to admission.
What may work against the couple, members say, is the media frenzy following Brady in the aftermath of Deflategate.
All TCC applicants must be sponsored by two current club members and provide the admissions committee with testimonials from seven other people with whom the applicant has a personal — not business — relationship. As part of the process, applicants also have to schmooze with the dozen or so members of the admissions committee at a cocktail reception held at the club. Applicants’ names are circulated among all the members, but the admissions committee finally decides.
“Personally, I hope they get in,” said a member who joined 20 years ago. “I think if Tom and Gisele were at the club playing volleyball, a lot more people would be hanging around.”
Brady and Bundchen would seem to be excellent candidates. The couple have two small children who would no doubt enjoy the club pool, and he’s got serious game on the golf course. Brady regularly plays in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and in March he impressed Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA champ, while playing at Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club in the Bahamas.
“He’s really good like I couldn’t believe,” Bradley said afterward.
While it’s true that understatement is ingrained at The Country Club, members acknowledge the club could use some new blood. The current demographic, some say, feels decidedly octogenarian.
One longtime member, who insisted her name not be used, said she hopes that Brady and Bundchen’s application isn’t spiked. She concedes that TCC can be finicky about whom it admits.
“We like it that way,” she said. “We don’t want any thugs at the club.”
But Brady and Bundchen seem nice, she said, and they live right next door.
“I would support them, yes,” she said. “My husband isn’t around to gawk at Gisele, but if Tom Brady wants to come home with me, he can do that anytime.”
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Mark Shanahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan.