Kaufman makes up for missed Masters trip -- and then some

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Source:   —  April 02, 2016, at 7:44 PM

Nine long years ago. Back then, he was a kid who saw golf as a way to assistance others, way before life led him to the PGA Tour. Smylie and his younger brother Luckie -- those are family names, passed down by previous generations -- knew of some children in their Birmingham, Alabama, neighborhood stricken with various forms of cancer.

Kaufman makes up for missed Masters trip -- and then some

I first wrote about Smylie Kaufman back in two thousand-seventh. Nine long years ago.

Back then, he was a kid who saw golf as a way to assistance others, way before life led him to the PGA Tour.

Smylie and his younger brother Luckie -- those are family names, passed down by previous generations -- knew of some children in their Birmingham, Alabama, neighborhood stricken with various forms of cancer. So they started a charity called Kids vs. Cancer, with all proceeds benefitting the American Cancer Society.

With assistance from their mother, Pam, the boys wrote letters and knocked on doors to lift donations for the cause. In a single day, they played one hundred holes of golf, from sunrise to sunset, at their residence course, Shoal Creek, raising $18.000.

As a reward, the club'south owner invited the Kaufman boys to connect a grouping of Jr golfers on a ride to Augusta National Golf Club to look a practice circular at the Masters. Luckie jumped at the opportunity. Smylie, then fifteen and a high school freshman, had to decline.

"I'd been playing a lot of golf and lost some school, so I decided I couldn't miss any more," the 24-year-old says now. "That was the dumbest thing ever. I should have gone."

The boys kept up their charitable efforts for the following few years, adding friends and altering the golf format but always raising money. In three years, they'd collected right around $60.000 in donations to fight cancer.

Meanwhile, the boys not only kept playing golf, they kept improving -- particularly Smylie, who played collegiately at LSU, turned professional upon graduation and latest year graduated to full-time PGA Tour membership.

It's been nine years since that first marathon day of golf and the time he decided to forgo a ride to the Masters.

He won't miss it this time around.

As winner of this season'south Shriners Hospitals for Children Open with a final-round sixty-one, the PGA Tour rookie received all of the normal perks that arrive along with a victory: A two-year exemption, a seven-figure check and, yes, an invitation into this year'south Masters field.

Smylie insists it was the Masters berth that first came to mind in the moments directly afterward.

"I think it was in my interview," he recalled with a laugh. "I was, like, 'I'm going to the Masters. This is going to be so cool.' "

Even though it was his win that'll obtain him to Augusta, he's proven he isn't some one-hit wonder.

In addition to the title in Las Vegas, Kaufman owns a half-dozen other top-25 finishes in only thirteen starts. He'south hoping those experiences will prepare him for the experience of being interior the ropes at the year'south first major.

"I think that Monday, I'll be a small maybe not shell-shocked, but in the moment," he said. "I think the whole year has been that way. I've kind of gotten over the wow factor of playing in a huge event or playing with these players."

He also has gotten over going to school instead of the Masters.

Nine years ago, Luckie returned residence from his Augusta ride with a camera full of blurry images of players and scenery from the course and not a single souvenir for the brother who'd helped him earn the trip.

"I obtain to bring him back," Smylie said. "He can arrive on my ticket now."

Presently a senior finance major at LSU, where they lived together for two years, Luckie will indeed attend the festivities -- and he'll have a small more personal investment than nine years ago.

"It'south insane; it hasn't really sunk in yet," he said. "I might be more nervous than he is."

They're not kids anymore, but their days of raising money to fight cancer aren't over. Smylie maintains that once his whirlwind rookie season slows down a bit, he'd love to discover a way to utilize his status as a PGA Tour member to further his charitable efforts.

As for the Masters, the ride he once passed up as a teenager and presently gets to get as a competitor in the field, Smylie sounds just love every other elite player going after the green jacket.

"I'm going there," he said matter-of-factly, "trying to win a golf tournament."

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