Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith is hoping that his second career course record will help get him into his second PGA Championship. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

Overcoming more adversity, Smith sets new record on Dye Course

Bruce Smith set a competitive course record on The Pete Dye Course on Monday. It's just the latest achievement by a man who knows all about dealing with the hazards life can throw at him.

By Bob Denney, Senior Writer, The PGA of America

FRENCH LICK, Ind. (PGA.com) – If there’s someone you want to lead you in dealing with life’s hazards, you might choose Bruce Smith.

We’re not talking about the lanky Texan holding a third-degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, or his penchant for setting milestones on demanding courses.

The PGA Director of Instruction at Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas had his latest measure of success Monday by posting a competitive course record 3-under-par 69 at The Pete Dye Course midway through the second round of the 43rd PGA Professional National Championship.

“I’ve had a course record (a 66) at Dallas Athletic Club in 1994 that will stand forever,” said Smith of the Gold Course designed by Jack Nicklaus and which doesn’t exist today. “I had Jack Nicklaus sign the scorecard for me. As for today’s round, with all the great players here, I think the record may not last more than an hour.”

The 43-year-old Smith’s ability to handle some of life’s curveballs off the course, particularly those that affect his family is equally impressive.

In 2002, Bruce’s wife, Kathleen, gave birth to daughter, Kennedy, who was afflicted with a rare birth defect, a lymphatic malformation of her right cheek.

The couple formed a foundation to raise funds for the Kisses Fore Kennedy Foundation that may help other families in their situation -- whose medical insurance doesn’t cover cosmetic surgery -- cope with ensuing costs and lead to a quality life.

This summer, Smith is challenging once again for a berth in a major championship, while also battling for the lead in a National Championship among his peers.

Coincidentally, Smith is attempting to earn a spot at the 92nd PGA Championship in August at another Pete Dye course he knows well -- Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.

In 2004, Smith earned his lone PGA Championship berth at Whistling Straits. As great a moment as it was for him, a practice round that year in which he unexpectedly shared a few holes with former PGA Champion John Daly topped any expectations.

Daly caught up with Smith on the 16th tee, and was offered to play through. But Daly wanted a partner, and the two began chatting on the way down the fairway. Smith asked if Daly may sign some items from the golf shop to go into an auction. Daly offered to get his own items after the round, but not before he reached into his pocket to peel off 10 $100 bills.

“Here, put that in your foundation,” said Daly.

Kennedy Smith, one of three children of Bruce and Kathleen Smith, now faces a brighter future due to such generosity exhibited by those like Daly and many who have participated in fundraising events revolving around the Kisses Fore Kennedy Foundation.

The web site, KissesForeKennedy.com, has been buzzing over the past several years.

“The Foundation is going great; Kennedy has had nine surgeries now, and she’s beautiful,” said Smith.

On this Monday, Smith channeled his energy on the course to collecting six birdies to offset three bogeys on The Pete Dye Course.

“Six birdies on a Pete Dye golf course -- I don’t know if it’s luck or skill,” said Smith, a native Oklahoman, who often played in his youth at another Dye creation, Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, Okla., which he said “Pete built before he got mad at us.”
 

As for his tour of The Pete Dye Course, where he overcame three bogeys with some par saves and four birdies on the front nine, Smith said that he was in awe.

“What a piece of property!” he said. “I played Whistling Straits in ’04, and it is just as Dye-abolical as this. In fact, I think this course requires more precision here to greens that are a lot smaller.”

It’s been six years since Smith’s journey to a PGA Championship. Much has happened to benefit his daughter and elevate his family’s spirits.

“My goal is to make the top 20 this year and get a trip back there [to Whistling Straits],” said Smith. “I would like to think that I could get a cushion and maybe I did today on this bear.”

The road ahead for children like Kennedy Smith remains perhaps a bit more chartered than it was a decade ago.

There is no known cure for lymphatic malformation. There are only countless surgeries, as the Smiths can attest.

Bruce and Kathleen Smith are leaders in the cause. A day like Monday can do wonders for a professional golfer and a father whose biggest concerns lie outside the gallery ropes yet grab the hearts of so many.

 

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