FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Some golfers collect scorecards. Others collect pencils, putters, ball markers or logoed hats.
Bruce Smith of Frisco, Texas, collects course records, and on Monday, during the second round of the 43rd Professional National Championship at French Lick Resort’s Pete Dye Course, he secured another pelt for his office wall.
His 3-under-par 69 not only provided Smith with the third course record of his career, but it also moved him into contention, leaving him just one stroke out of the lead as Monday afternoon’s wave of starters was sent on its way.
“You make six birdies on a Pete Dye golf course, I don’t know if that’s luck or skill, to be honest with you,” said Smith, the director of instruction at Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas. “I played the PGA (Championship) at Whistling Straits, and this golf course is right in line with that one. This course is diabolical.”
Of Smith’s course records, one will last forever; the Gold Course at Dallas Athletic Club, where he shot a 66 during the 1994 Northern Texas PGA Assistant Professional Championship, no longer exists. And he doesn’t hold out much hope that he’ll hold on to Monday’s mark very long.
“That might not last this week,” he said. “The guys here are too good.”
Smith had played in seven previous PNCs, with mostly uneventful results: four missed cuts and one top-20 finish. The one time Smith qualified out of the PNC and into the PGA Championship, in 2004, that year’s PGA was played at Whistling Straits, the same site as this year.
“My goal is to finish in the top 20 and get back to Whistling Straits,” said Smith, whose lone major-championship experience in 2004 was highlighted before he even hit his first tee shot. (He shot two 77s and missed the cut.)
Before that PGA, Smith and his wife, Kathleen, had their third child, a girl, Kennedy, who was born with a lymphatic malformation, a congenital (present from birth) defect that occurs during early embryonic development.
Smith went to the Straits Course early to practice, and while there he walked onto the first tee for a practice round at about the same time that John Daly was doing the same. When Daly asked Smith why he was there to practice so early, Smith proceeded to tell him about his daughter and the foundation that had been set up to help with the numerous surgeries Kennedy was expected to need.
“Here I’ve known this guy for two holes,” Smith said, “and he pulls into his pocket, peels off 10 hundreds and gives them to me for the foundation. I know a lot of stories have been written about John, but I’ll never forget what he did that day.”