Jonathan Byrd finds strength in memory of father

By Rex HoggardSeptember 11, 2009, 4:03 am
LEMONT, Ill. – Jonathan Byrd was cruising along, 4 under through 13 holes, his name painted atop a showstopper leaderboard and a relaxed smile etched into an expressive face.

It was precisely the moment things went sideways at Cog Hill’s Dubsdread Course. They always do.
What made this particular speed bump outside the norm was Byrd’s square-shouldered reaction to bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6 (he started his round on No. 10). Where the old “Jay Bird” would have inwardly fumed, the new guy lifted his ball from the hole and headed to the next tee.

Sports psychologist call it “fumble and forget,” and one of the Tour’s most intense competitors has learned over an emotional few months that it’s just life. A missed putt here, a pulled approach there, it's little picture stuff for a son who walked away from the Tour for six weeks to be by his ailing father’s side to the end.

But then Jim Byrd was not your prototypical golf dad.
Jonathan Byrd BMW Championship
Jonathan Byrd plays a shot during the opening round of the BMW Championship. (Getty Images)

“It was not your normal father-son relationship,” said Mac Barnhardt, Byrd’s friend and manager with Crown Sports. “It was total support, very positive. He wanted Jonathan to play golf because Jonathan enjoyed it. Not because he wanted it.”

On July 7, 2009, Jim Byrd lost his battle with brain cancer that began in the fall of 2007 when he collapsed during a Clemson football game. Jonathan Byrd was there – and had been since the first week of June when he tied for third at the Memorial, packed his clubs away and decided that golf would always be there, his father would not.

When asked about his father on Thursday under cloudless Chicago skies, the smile quickly returned to Byrd’s face.

“I have peace because I had a lot of good time with him at the end,” Byrd said.

Byrd was by his father’s bed in Columbia, S.C. every day for nearly six weeks, and when Jim Byrd passed he was joined at the funeral by Tour stablemates Davis Love III, Lucas Glover and Zach Johnson, who – it’s worth pointing out – flew from Ohio to South Carolina in between their first and second rounds at Firestone.

A therapist might call it closure. For Byrd, taking the time to reach each stage of the dying process at his own pace made him complete.

When Tiger Woods lost his father Earl in the summer of 2006 he was asked if being back on Tour provided emotional cover, a respite from the emotions. Woods said it did not and after a windy first round at Cog Hill Byrd echoed those sentiments.

For Byrd, and Woods, the loss of his father gave him strength that wasn’t there before. Strength to understand a Thursday bogey is no reason to sulk and an opening-round 69 is just a number.

“Honestly, my expectations were too high the last few months,” said Byrd, who is tied for 11th, three shots behind co-leaders Rory Sabbatini and Steve Marino at the BMW Championship. “Even at Memorial (Byrd’s best finish this year) I was thinking about him all the time, kind of in a fog. So I wasn’t worried about all the little things on the course that can get to you.”

No one is harder on Byrd than Byrd. An intense gym rat, Byrd’s trainer Randy Myers has to keep him from pushing too hard. Driven to improve, his swing coach Mike Bender has to temper their workouts to avoid overload or worse – injury.

Anything short of perfection on the golf course has been a reason to stew. It’s what made Byrd a three-time All-American at Clemson and a three-time Tour winner. But the Tour devours perfectionists.

“It puts you in a different light,” Barnhardt said. “He has a different perception now. It’s dialed him down a little because he was all or nothing.”

Byrd learned the game at his father’s knee and it seemed on Thursday that the man who put a golf club in his 3-year-old son’s hand, was still teaching. At the least, Jim Byrd is still watching, of that much Jonathan is sure.

It happened four weeks ago during the Wyndham Championship, Byrd’s third event back following his father’s passing. The Wyndham is as close to a home game as Byrd gets and Jim had watched his son play the southern staple nearly every year.

“Not a day goes by I don’t think about him,” Byrd said. “You have moments. I’ve seen him on the golf course. Not physically, but he was there . . . in Greensboro. He was there . . . I mean, you want your dad out there.”

For a professional golfer, whose relationship with the game and their father are impossible to separate, getting back between the gallery ropes is cathartic, but not in a bury-your-head-in-your-work kind of way.
Everywhere Byrd looks he is reminded of his father, and for a player who was racing through his Tour career at 130 rpm, that’s a good thing.

“The routine was an escape,” Byrd said. “The routine of getting ready for a tournament is a way of dealing with it. It’s healthy to get back to some normalcy. But he’s always there. I know that.”

On Thursday, Jim Byrd must have been proud.
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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm