Jason Day got the trophy and Jordan Spieth the headlines, but the real winner of the HP Byron Nelson Championship, in my mind, was Chris Smith, who made his first PGA Tour cut since his wife was killed in a car accident nearly a year ago.
Playing on a sponsor exemption, Smith, 41, finished T-43 in his fourth start back.
Smith’s wife, Beth, and kids were headed home to Peru, Ind., from a Father’s Day visit with Beth’s family in Toledo, Ohio. Daughter Abigail, 17, was driving, Beth sat in the passenger seat and son Cameron, 13, in the back seat of their Ford Expedition.
Smith’s children were hospitalized for 16 days. Abigail shattered her right hip, Cameron broke his right arm and leg and suffered third-degree burns. Their physical injuries have healed.
Smith, one of the most popular players on Tour, has become a stay-at-home dad, a role he called the most difficult, thankless job on the planet. He can tick off any number of “I had no idea” stories, but this one stood out as the most humorous.
One morning, Abigail ate breakfast in a blue shirt and then left for school in a different-colored one.
“That blue shirt is in the laundry. No stain, mind you. She wore it for all of 15 minutes but she thinks it’s dirty,” Smith said, shaking his head in disbelief, a smile still creasing his face.
Smith is doing his best to roll with it, and has become quite the “domestic diva.”
“I used to think I was good at golf and sports. I can clean house pretty good,” he said. “I hated doing laundry my whole life. I had to get over that in a hurry. I haven’t ruined one piece of clothing. It’s just my life now, and that’s OK.”
When asked if he could name a proverbial blessing in disguise from such a tragedy, Smith doesn’t hesitate. He’ll tell you he’s spent more time with his kids in the past year than the rest of their lives combined. Smith, who averaged 30-plus weeks on the road a year since their birth, offered this poignant story:
For more than a month, Smith picked up Subway sandwiches and ate lunch every day at Cameron’s junior high school, where Abigail was doing an internship.
“I’d never done that once with them,” he said.
That’s sweet, but hey, Dad, aren’t you cramping your kids’ style a bit? Finally, Abigail got the nerve to say something.
“OK, Dad, I think it’s kind of weird that you’re coming to school to eat lunch every day,” she told him.
Habits are tough to break. The next day Smith stopped at Subway, fought the urge to march into the cafeteria, and instead sat in the school parking lot and ate in his truck.
Abigail noticed him and that night called him out, “Did I see your truck during lunch hour?”
Busted. Abigail told Dad he could come back to lunch.
“I didn’t go back, but it meant a lot to me,” Smith said.
Probably more than making a cut on Tour.