U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Born 3 Months Premature, Bryant Continues to Beat Odds July 18, 2017 | Andover, Kan. By Stuart Hall

U.S. Junior Amateur competitor Davis Bryant has always had a fighting spirit since being born 14 weeks premature. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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The numbers, too many to keep straight and remember, were stacked heavily against Davis Bryant at birth.

Take 14, for instance. That is the number of weeks premature Bryant was born on Jan. 7, 2000.

“I’ve got a picture where my wedding ring is wrapped around his fingers; they were so tiny,” said Matt Bryant, Davis’ father, “and he was the length of from my middle finger down to just about where my watch band would be.”

Or 1, which represents the days after birth the 1-pound, 10-ounce Bryant needed heart surgery. Or perhaps a 20-something number, which was the percentage given for his survival after seven days. Or even a number as high as 70, which was the percentage he would likely suffer blindness or cerebral palsy or some other developmental disability.

Whatever the number, one thing was certain: Bryant was a heavy underdog in the fight for his young life.

After 105 days, though, on April 20, Matt and Julie Bryant took their first child home with a clean bill of health.

“And it seemed like every doctor appointment thereafter there was never anything glaringly wrong with him in terms of learning deficiencies, the way his body or his brain functioned, anything,” said Matt Bryant, whose daughter Emma was born seven weeks premature – also on Jan. 7, three years after Davis. “Slowly, he grew more into the normal range of those growth charts.”

Bryant gradually grew to the point he is today, a lithe, but muscular 5-feet-8, 125-pound 17-year-old senior at Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, Colo.

The personable and engaging Bryant was obviously too young to remember those harrowing early days, but he continues to carry with him the words his parents used to describe him.

“My parents have always said I have been a fighter,” said Bryant, who is also a member of the Eaglecrest baseball team.

While certainly not as dire as life or death, Bryant is once again having to scrap. This time it’s at the 70th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship being played at Flint Hills National Golf Club.

Bryant, less than a week removed from winning the Colorado Junior Amateur, opened with an even-par 71 on Monday to stand tied for 30th. The top 64 players following Tuesday’s second round advance to match play, which begins on Wednesday.

Golf has been a part of everyday life since Bryant began playing at age 3. His father is general manager and director of golf at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver and his mother is director of operations for The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch.

“He took to the game naturally,” Matt Bryant said. “We have a par-3 course as part of our First Tee program and there would be days he would basically be a par-3 rat by just playing, hitting all types of shots and figuring things out.”

But given Bryant’s diminutive size, he was often having to compensate.

“My mindset was that I will figure it out,” he said. “On a par-3 hole when I was little, I might have been hitting 5-wood when others were hitting 6- and 7-irons. But I always thought I could get it just as close as they could.

“So, I have had to play the game just a little bit differently. In the past two or three years, I have been able to say, well, these are the cards I have been dealt and I’m not sure how much more I am going to grow, but I can control being stronger. I have found a way to be able to compete with those kids by playing the game a little bit differently.”

For proof that there is no one way to play the game, Bryant points to the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 10.

“Look at [2015 U.S. Open champion] Jordan Spieth, he doesn’t hit it that far but he’s one of the best players in the game because he’s unreal around and on the green,” said Bryant, who shot 81-80 to miss the cut at the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur at Colleton River Plantation Club in Bluffton, S.C. “Then you have Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy who hit the ball a mile. So, you go through and look at the top 10 players in the world and their games are not similar at all. Everyone is unique in their own way and I feel like I have my own unique way.”

Bryant also has a fighter’s spirit, and that could serve him well should he reach match play.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites. 

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