Senior Open Champ Gives
November 9, 2007
By David Shefter, USGA
Far Hills, N.J. - Brad Bryant is known around the Champions
Tour as a man who is gracious with his time. And that
reputation carries far beyond actual competitions for the
reigning U.S. Senior Open champion.
|Brad Bryant tips his hat on the
72nd hole after realizing he's about to win this
year's U.S. Senior Open. (John Mummert/USGA)|
For the third consecutive year, the Floridian, along
with his younger PGA Tour-playing brother, Bart, will host
the annual Family Holiday Celebration at the Lakeland YMCA
Par 3 golf facility that also serves as The First Tee of
Lakeland chapter. LPGA Tour player Wendy Doolan also is
scheduled to participate in the golf clinic Nov. 17 from to
All individuals, regardless of age or ability, are
encouraged to attend, with free turkeys being given to the
first 100 families. Kids will receive toys from Santa and
there will be free food and refreshments.
"We want to reach out to the community," said
Brad Bryant, who rallied with a final-round 68 to win the
Senior Open this past July at Whistling Straits by three
strokes. "That is certainly what The First Tee is
trying to do.
"This fall event is geared to the entire family, not
just the kids. The reason we do that is because we never
see the parents. This gives us a chance to get to know the
parents of our First Tee kids."
The Family Holiday Celebration is one of two charity events
that Bryant does for the YMCA of West Central Florida and
TFT. In February, he participates in Barkley, Bean, Bryant
and Friends, a golf tournament played on the par-3 course
with Charles Barkley, Champions Tour player Andy Bean and
other corporate leaders that netted $183,000 for the YMCA
Par 3 and TFT of Lakeland this past year.
Some 700 to 1,000 people pay an admission fee to see the
"It's our largest fundraiser," said Kirk
Smith, the Executive Director of the YMCA Par 3, Home of
The First Tee of Lakeland. "That event is geared
"This [event on Nov. 17] is Brad's way of giving
back to people who are not as upscale. It doesn't
matter who you are, it doesn't matter what your bank
account looks like. We want you to come out and have some
Brad and Bart, along with Doolan, will perform a variety of
shots and demonstrate basic techniques. Sometimes they
invite some of the older TFT participants up to hit a few
shots as well. The chapter annually has some 750
participants in its year-round programs.
"Those guys are hams," said Smith of the two
Bryants. "They will act silly for a while and crack
some jokes. They will talk about [fundamentals], so
it's a very informative clinic."
Santa will even make a cameo during the clinic and hand out
toys to the kids. At the event's conclusion, all three
professionals will be available for autographs.
The facility itself dates back to 1957 when the Publix
Supermarket chain built the par-3 course for its employees
and administrators. It later served as a public venue for
the city of Lakeland, where a young Fred Ridley learned the
game. Ridley would go on to win the 1975 U.S. Amateur and
later serve as a USA Walker Cup captain and USGA president
(2004-05). In March of 2002, Publix announced it was
closing the 18-hole facility that also featured a lighted
driving range. The YMCA of West Central Florida was asked
to initiate the construction and renovation of the course
and as a result, Publix provided a 15-year lease at $1 per
In August of 2003 the facility became a chapter of The
First Tee, and a year later the USGA provided the first of
four grants. The $100,000 initial grant went toward the
construction and renovation of the par-3 course and lighted
practice facility, a project that was overseen by Lakeland
resident and current USGA Executive Committee member Steve
Smyers. His wife, former LPGA Tour player Sharon Smyers,
led the capital campaign that has raised more than $1
million from community donations.
The USGA has assisted the past three years with grants
totaling $140,000 for instruction costs. The renovated
facility opened in March of 2005 with TFT programming
beginning shortly thereafter.
A majority of the program's participants come from
economically challenged families. But the facility also
holds clinics for home-schooled kids, the housing
authority, Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts, Rochelle
School of Arts and hosts an adaptive golf clinic for
individuals with disabilities. A competitive summer golf
tour also is held at the facility for advanced
participants. Through the grants and other monies raised in
the community, participants receive instruction and range
access free of charge.
"The demographic part that we serve is a pretty
challenging population in this area," said Smith.
"We have a lot of economically challenged families.
It's an area that is very much underserved and I think
Brad and his brother just want to give back. So we get a
chance to help those kids."
DavidShefteris a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or
. USGA Media Relations stafferPeteKowalskicontributed to this story.