Anderson, Snedeker get back to work
MEDINAH, Ill. – Brandt Snedeker, golf’s new $11.4 Million Man, is thoroughly enjoying being part of his first Ryder Cup team, and it’s evident he feels right at home. If he gets any rookie grief from such veterans as Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, he doesn’t hesitate to quickly return the playful needle.
“I feel sometimes they get a hall pass because they are who they are,” Snedeker said. “I want to make sure they don’t get a hall pass. And I don’t care. So I give them a hard time.”
It’s all in good fun, of course, and all part of a much larger scheme: How to be a player who meshes well with his teammates. That’s nothing new for Snedeker, who already has shown he’s a pillar when it comes to being a quality team man.
A close member of his own personal circle, instructor Todd Anderson, has been going through a harrowing ordeal the past few weeks. Anderson’s 19-year-old son, Tucker, a freshman at the University of West Florida, was in a horrific SUV accident Sept. 7, nearly losing his life when his Chevrolet Tahoe left the road and struck a tree on campus in Pensacola. Tucker underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain, sustained several fractured vertebrae, and broke the orbital socket on the right side of his face.
The initial words coming from Tucker’s doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola still ring in Todd Anderson’s ears: “We’ve done all we can do. The next 48 hours will be critical.”
Fortunately, Tucker’s recovery thus far has been slow but steady. (“Beyond belief how well he’s doing,” said U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, who has watched Tucker grow into a young man back home in Sea Island, Ga.)
Tucker’s progression (with help from a nurse, he was able to stand on Wednesday) meant that his dad, one of the most highly respected instructors in the game, could return to his “office,” striding the fairways alongside Snedeker at Medinah Country Club. However brief the respite from the ordeal he and his family have been living, it felt invigorating to Anderson just to be out there, the mounting support continuing to humble him. And Snedeker, for one, was thrilled to have him back.
“It was really special,” said Snedeker, who three days ago captured golf’s richest prize, the $10 million FedEx Cup, just hours after making a bedside visit to Tucker, who has been like a little brother to him. “I haven’t had a chance to give Todd a hug in a while, so it was really cool, and we’re going to have a good time the next couple of days. I want him to enjoy the moment. He’s a great guy to have in your corner, so I’m hoping this helps to keep his mind off what’s really going on."
The news on Tucker continues to be promising. Though Tucker is not yet able to speak, Todd Anderson said his son has been responding more frequently, answering questions by holding up one (yes) or two (no) fingers. He recognizes what year this is, and he identifies his name when it’s called out. Hearing that Tucker smiled Wednesday for the first time since the accident – back in Atlanta, where he is receiving treatment in the renowned Shepherd Center for spinal cord and brain rehabilitation – delivered a wide smile to his dad’s face, too.
“I hated to miss that, but he’s moving along,” Anderson said. “We’ve had so much support, so many prayers coming in. It’s been one of God’s miracles. You can’t explain it other than somebody reached down and said, ‘You know what? It’s not his time.’ He is healing, and he’s a fighter. He’s a tough kid. . . . There are a lot of prayers and a lot of good people touching him, and it’s really made a difference.”
Anderson, who plies his trade in Sea Island, always has known that golf is a small, tight fraternity. He just never knew how small the circle could actually close, and just how vibrantly warm the embrace could be, in a time of one family’s need. It seems the entire world has been there to extend a helping hand. Plane rides? Money? A place to stay? A great doctor? The generosity keeps pouring in, and Anderson feels truly, truly blessed.
He won’t ever forget the first week of September. On Sept. 4, Snedeker, his prized student, was named as a captain’s pick to his pal Love’s Ryder Cup team. Three days later, Anderson would receive an early phone call that shattered his peaceful world: The youngest of Todd and Stacey Anderson’s three boys had been in a terrible wreck, and his life was hanging in the balance. Snedeker feels for son and father.
“It’s been tough,” Snedeker said. “Anytime you have a guy like that, who you care so much about, and he’s had to go through one of the worst things any parent could ever go through, it’s very tough. You know, we’re texting each other, we’ve cried a lot together, we’ve hugged a lot together, and it’s been a tough couple of weeks. There is a road in front of Tucker; it’s going to be a long one, but he’s got a road, at least. We’re just moving forward.”
On Wednesday, it was time for student and teacher to get back to work, each doing what he loves to do. For Snedeker, Friday’s opening round of the Ryder Cup cannot get here quickly enough; he’s a hot guy who wants to stand on that first tee as soon as possible (“I feel like I’m wasting time getting ready,” he said).
And his teacher is a man who faces a road ahead with his child that will take an incredible level of patience to travel. It’s a stark contrast. One man champs at the bit; his good pal waits for the smallest inches of progress. Both now realize that even a high-pressure, world-is-watching event such as the Ryder Cup, though it means a great deal in their tiny universe, pales when compared to something far bigger. Life.
The two will celebrate Snedeker’s great Sunday double (Tour Championship, FedEx Cup) in the next couple of days, before Anderson returns to see his son in Atlanta. Both will keep Tucker close in their thoughts.
“Brandt and I are really close, and he’s very close with Tucker,” Anderson said. “When you look at your life’s battles, and the mountains and the challenges you face in life, they’re in a different level than your career, especially when it involves a loved one. So Tucker’s situation is Mount Everest; Brandt’s is really, really high from a career standpoint, but it doesn’t measure up from a personal standpoint when you’re looking at your son and the situation he is in.
“I’m thrilled for Brandt. Brandt coming over (Sunday) and seeing Tucker was a big boost to him, just relaxing him. Brandt asked him a couple of questions, and he responded to them, and I think that really relaxed Brandt. He said, ‘He’s going to be OK.' It’s been almost surreal, the whole thing. Brandt called me and he said, ‘Did that really just happen?’ So much has gone on, and it’s been such a roller coaster of emotions, day to day, hour by hour.
"I’m still trying to get my arms around it. Tucker has a long way to go, but at least he has a road to travel down now. For a while there we weren’t sure we were going to have that. I’m blessed that God looked down upon him.”