This week in our series talking with South Carolinians who have made an impact in the world of golf: PGA Tour and LPGA professionals, TV personalities and others, we visit with Easley native and former Columbia resident Jonathan Byrd. We talk to him about his golf experiences growing up in South Carolina, as well as his favorite home-state places to play, eat and relax.
A return to The Masters this year after a three-year absence marked the end of a long, difficult time for PGA Tour veteran Jonathan Byrd. His father, Jim, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in late 2007, and in 2008 -- his last appearance at Augusta National -- the former Clemson All-American was able to play a casual round at the famous Masters course with his dad and father-in-law. Jim Byrd died in July 2009, and those who know his son best say it took a year almost to the day for Jonathan to regain his footing.
He did so with a splash, winning his final event of 2010, the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, with the first walk-off hole-in-one in PGA Tour history. He then began 2011 by capturing the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
Married with two young children, Byrd lives at Sea Island, Ga., but maintains close ties with South Carolina. He and former teammate Charles Warren help host the annual Tiger Golf Gathering, a reunion of former players which raises funds for the Clemson golf team. Byrd also comes home to see his brother Jordan, assistant golf coach at Clemson, and his mother, Jo. For the Byrds, it’s always about family.
Born in Easley
, raised in Columbia
Three-time All-American golfer at Clemson
; now in 10th year on PGA Tour; has won five PGA Tour titles; will play in his fourth Masters in 2011.
Won his final event of 2010 in Las Vegas in a playoff with a hole-in-one, the only such finish in Tour history; won the 2011-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, also in a playoff.
Where I play:
“Palmetto Golf Club
(private club in Aiken
) is my No. 1. I like the design; I think it’s one of the most fun golf courses I’ve ever played. I love the Donald Ross-style small, elevated greens, and the small clubhouse that’s right at the 18th green and near the first tee. It’s a special place.
(in Hilton Head
) is a course that we don’t get to play a lot on Tour, with the tight fairways and trees overhanging the small greens. It’s unique on the Tour, but also anywhere, and challenging.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t mention WildeWood
(private club in Columbia
), I played there more than anywhere else growing up, and I love Camden Country Club
(private club in Camden
). I’ve only played the Ocean Course at Kiawah
twice, but I just enjoyed it so much. It’s on the ocean, and it’s difficult with the ocean breezes, has a links feel because of that. I enjoy playing it in difficult conditions.”
Where to eat:
, I like the Peninsula Grill
a lot. It’s a fantastic restaurant, and there’s a courtyard behind it (part of the Planters Inn
) where I asked (wife) Amanda to marry me. I rented the courtyard for a half-hour, set it up with flowers, candles, music and the whole deal. And my parents were upstairs on a balcony, videotaping the whole thing.
, I love going to Rush’s
(fast food). I guess it’s not the healthiest of meals – I love their double-chili cheeseburger – but I ate a lot of late-night meals there in high school. It’s one of Amanda’s favorite places, too.
“There are a lot of great barbecue joints around Columbia and elsewhere, and I like a lot of them. No one favorite, though.”
Where to play: “We all love going to Clemson football games in the fall, especially with the kids (son Jackson, 4, and daughter Grace, 2). Amanda and I both went to college there, so some of our best memories are there, and we like to show the kids around.
“The week of the Heritage at Hilton Head
, we rent a house and the whole family – mine and Amanda’s – is there together, cooking meals, riding bikes in Sea Pines and on the beach. We love to listen to the guy who sings to kids under the tree in Harbour Town.
“My mom (Jo) loves going to the beach. She and my dad (the late Jim) have a condo at North Litchfield in Litchfield by the Sea
, and the beaches there are beautiful.”