LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The Golf Channel Am Tour is bigger than golf to Readus Smith III.
“This tour saved my life. No joke,” he says.
Smith, 58, a resident of Palm Coast, Fla., missed the 2014 Golf Channel Am Tour senior national championships due to complications from Crohn’s disease, a disorder associated with the inflammation of the digestive tract. He’s back competing in the Senior Snead division (for handicaps 20 and above) at the 2015 national championships after an assist from his fellow competitors. The 72-hole, stroke-play tournament, which will crown national champions in six different flights, began Friday and ends Monday after rounds at four different courses.
Smith was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease about 19 years ago. Last year, it got bad.
“I thought I was on my way out,” he admitted.
He credits the support of his fellow Am Tour players for helping to pull him through the whole ordeal. “Every guy that I played with on my tour came to the hospital to help support my wife,” he recalled. “There was somebody there all the time. I thought they had put together a schedule, but they said it just worked out that way.”
Little things, like eating breakfast, became major issues. Smith said he struggled to stomach breakfast every morning until the doctors and nurses conditioned him to eat during his regular morning ritual - watching the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive.
After he was sent home, Smith said several players took time off of work to help him regain his health. “I will never forget that. This is the greatest group of guys in the world,” he said. “I will never leave this tour.”
Smith, who has worked in the health care industry for years and is currently the Executive Vice President Business Development and Marketing of Island Doctors in St. Augustine, Fla., said a trip to Honduras for a stem cell procedure has him feeling much better.
Smith has played in 10 events on the Golf Channel Am Tour since January, recording a second-place finish at the 2015 Kentucky Invitational and a third-place finish at The Nashville Tour Championship. He loves his golf, even though he doesn’t take it as seriously as some. He has a new perspective on golf ... and life.
“Some of these guys take it way too serious,” he said with a laugh. "If I win, that’s cool. If I don’t, no big deal."