Father's Day is coming up, and I know it's going to be extra meaningful this year. That's because my dad, Jim Byrd, died last July at 65 after a nearly two-year battle with a brain tumor.
All the firsts since last summer have been pretty difficult: my parents' anniversary, Christmas, Easter, my mom's birthday. Not having him at Hilton Head for the first time, that was hard. There are a lot of little things along the way where I know I'll miss him.
We were not the only ones hurting, though. A lot of people loved my dad. He worked at AT&T for 30 years, and through golf and football (he played at North Carolina) and the charity work he did, he had a lot of friends. I've been told there were more people at my dad's viewing, in Columbia, S.C., than at those of some South Carolina governors.
So last fall, when someone suggested that rather than simply miss my dad, it might be better to memorialize him with a golf tournament, we stopped to think about it. My mother, Jo, my brother, Jordan, an assistant golf coach at Clemson, my wife, Amanda, and I were hesitant at first. We weren't sure what my dad would've wanted. Was it too soon? Should we wait?
It didn't take long to figure out, though. We had two great charities to work with—the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation and Fairway Outreach, which introduces at-risk kids to golf—and AT&T was willing to come in as a sponsor. So on April 19--20 we held the first Jim Byrd Memorial Golf Tournament at the Members Club at Woodcreek and WildeWood, my dad's home course, in Columbia. As a logo for the event, we came up with an image of an adult and two kids carrying golf bags. My dad loved being with his boys, and the memory we'll always have is playing WildeWood, walking the fairways with him. We felt that's what this event was all about: kids with a father or mentor.
In that regard, and so many others, the event was fantastic. We received overwhelming support from volunteers and participants, and we did two clinics—one for Fairway Outreach kids, the other for players—and they turned out great. My friend Zach Johnson and our instructors, Mike Bender and Morris Pickens, came and did a terrific job.
At the kids' clinic, I met Reed Metts, the 14-year-old to whom Fairway Outreach gave my dad's old Pings. I hope he plays a lot with them. That was my dad's personality: Don't put my clubs in a closet, give them to someone who might use them. I'm a father now, and I'm still learning what a great example he and my mom were for me.
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BAG MAN Jim caddied for his son on Augusta's par-3 course in 2003.
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