July 10, 2009 — The golf community is a large but often close-knit family, and when tragedy strikes one member – it often reverberates long beyond one home, one club or even one state. The tragic events surrounding Chris Smith and his family are a tale of heartbreaking loss, a battle to move forward and the efforts of the golf world to help one of their own.
When Chris Smith earned a golf scholarship to Ohio State University in the late 1980s, he undoubtedly had his sights set on a successful playing career and a college degree. When he met a girl named Beth Lee, golf and studies probably took a backseat to love!
Beth was an attractive blonde co-ed with a warm smile who loved Ohio State as much as Chris did. She was engineering major and a good student who worked hard for her degree. She motivated Chris to get his degree, helping him with some of his most difficult classes.
In November 1991 after graduating from OSU, Beth and Chris were married. Beth got a job with an engineering firm in Columbus, Ohio that designed medical devices and Chris started his professional golf career.
Beth stayed in Columbus and worked full-time while her husband traveled and played professionally. She met Chris whenever she could get away from work. The Smiths decided to start a family in 1993 and their daughter Abigail was born on Feb. 28. A few years went by and in 1997, their son Cameron was born.
In many ways, this was the typical PGA Tour family story. Beth ran the household, paid the bills and in the words of a family friend, “raised three kids- Abigail, Cameron and Chris!”
Chris and Beth eventually built a house at Rock Hollow GC in Peru, Ind. They live on the course with Chris' parents and brothers- Todd and Terry. The Smith family is one of the most loved, respected and talented in the history of Indiana golf. Chris is a PGA Tour winner and Todd is a 9-time Indiana PGA Player of the Year.
Todd and Chris have many things in common. Their birthdays are three days apart. Todd's wife, Claire, and Beth have birthdays that are also three days apart. Todd's son Brad and Cameron's birthdays are one day apart and Todd's daughter Erin and Abigail's birthdays are also one day apart. But, the two families are close because of the lifestyle they share through golf.
“I understood a little more than some, how hard it was when Chris was at a tournament. Beth was a little torn between wanting to be with her husband and wanting to be at home with the children,” said Claire. “With today's technology, wondering and anticipating what the score was, became easier when Beth was at home. She never seemed to let 'a not so good round' get her down. She was always ready for the phone call to give Chris some sort of encouragement.”
“Chris and Beth loved to entertain family and friends. She loved to watch movies,” recalls Claire. “This year when our daughters had their birthdays, Beth planned and arranged a trip to Chicago for the four of us. We let the girls share their own room and we had such a great time shopping and hanging out on Michigan Avenue.”
Last month, the third weekend of June started out as a pretty normal time for the Smith family. Chris was playing in a Nationwide event in Arkansas. Beth and the kids went to her parents' home near Toledo to celebrate Father's Day. It was just another Father's Day away from Chris, for Beth and the kids.
Sometime around noon on Sunday, June 21 everything changed. On the drive home to Indiana, Beth and the kids were involved in a terrible automobile accident. Beth lost her life. Abigail and Cameron were critically injured.
Chris had missed the cut in Arkansas and was playing in an outing in Chicago when he was notified of the accident. He began to drive toward Fort Wayne, eventually meeting his dad and Todd. The family congregated at the hospital as Chris' kids were fighting for their lives. The fact that the children survived is a miracle in itself.
Caddies on the Nationwide Tour and players, caddies and fans at the PGA Professional National Championship showed their support in various ways for the Smith family. (Photos: Getty Images and The PGA of America)
Needless to say, the entire Indiana golf family has been shaken by the tragic circumstances. The outpouring of support has come from far beyond the boundaries of the Hoosier state. Caddies on the Nationwide Tour recently wore Chris Smith name tags. PGA Tour and PGA club professionals wore black ribbons in memory of Beth last week at competitive events.
Unfortunately for Chris, he is an independent contractor. He will not play again this year. When he doesn't play, he doesn't earn a living. He is now a single parent with two kids who face long recoveries. He needs help- now more than ever.
The golf community is proving again why this game is so great. On Friday, Aug. 7, golfers and friends will be gathering for the first annual Beth Smith Memorial Golf Tournament at The Legends of Indiana GC with proceeds assisting the Chris Smith family.
In addition to the golf tournament, there will be a dinner with live and silent auctions featuring select items from PGA Tour players thanks to Mac Fritz, Vice President of Player Promotion for the Acushnet Company. Many of golf's great players, including Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, Camilo Villegas and Adam Scott are donating signed drivers, wedges and other memorabilia to help raise money for Chris and his family. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will also contribute some unique articles.
Kenny Perry and Stricker (probably a few more players) are hosting a round of golf for three. At the World Golf Championships-Brdgestone Invitational to be held at Firestone CC, PGA Tour players will sign a Chris Smith tour bag for the auction. Kenny G and Kenny Chesney are donating special items. Fritz promises an unforgettable night.
It is anticipated that Chris, Abigail and Cameron will be on hand to show their appreciation. The entire Smith family will be there to help support Chris and the kids.
will always remember Beth's smile. She was always upbeat and encouraging. She loved her family and she loved life. Beth loved to exercise. She got hooked on spinning at the YMCA even though they had state of the art exercise equipment at their home,” reflected Claire. “She loved to cook. She loved to be involved. Whenever she committed herself to something, she gave 110%. She was such a motivator.”
“We move forward with our faith in God and our family and friends. The accident was a tragedy in losing Beth, but it was a miracle that Abigail and Cameron survived. Beth would want us to focus on that” said Claire. “We live in a small community that has been so supportive and loving. We see people in town… at the bank… at the grocery. They cry when they start talking about the accident. Many have said they will be a better person because of Beth.”
This is a story that will hopefully touch many. The Smiths are good people who have given much to help others. Now it's our turn to help them. If you would like to play, sponsor, attend dinner or contribute to the Chris Smith family contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 317/736-8939. Contributions can be mailed to The Legends of Indiana GC, c/o Chris Smith, P.O. Box 39, Franklin, IN 46131.
About the Author
Written by Dan Rakusan
A huge Rangers (NHL), Falcons (NFL), PGA Tour and soccer fan, I have been writing semi-professionally for about 7 years now. I try to impart information with some degree of humour, and always have an opinion. PSB is another feather in my cap, and am really proud of the team assembled here, and look forward to the long-term journey PSB is embarking on in terms of establishing itself as the best sports blogging collective on the net! Look for articles such as 4-Play, Rangers blogs and PGA Tour updates, along with my NFL handicapping service!