On Thursday, Rex Bryant III put the finishing touches on a final-round 79 in the AJGA’s David Toms Junior at Southern Trace Country Club. Byrd’s rising senior finished in 50th place.
Nothing about the performance seems extraordinary.
How about the number 8? That’s how many birdies Bryant made during the 54-hole event.
Well, consider this. The lives of people, like Bryant’s aunt, Stephanie Bryant, afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease), could hinge on any and every hole he plays on the AJGA Tour.
Under the Birdies for Charity program on the nation’s top circuit for junior golfers, Bryant earns donations toward the ALS Association.
“In February, (Stephanie) was diagnosed with ALS,” said Bryant, who began campaign with the help of his mother. “It had a pretty big impact on our family. We immediately began to try to find ways to support her and help her out.”
Donors can pledge an amount to pay per Bryant birdie or they can make a one-time donation.
A member of Byrd’s three-time reigning state champion golf team, Bryant made four birdies in his opening round Tuesday, and two birdies Wednesday helped take the sting out of an 86.
Stephanie Bryant was certainly proud of that 86.
Sometimes it takes a little digging to unearth the most important numbers.
Although the diagnosis came just five months ago, Stephanie Bryant recently moved in with Rex and his family.
“It started with a raspy voice, but now she has almost entirely lost her ability to speak,” Bryant said. She hasn’t lost all her faculties, but the doctor did warn her she should have people on hand as it begins to deteriorate.”
Following Monday’s Junior-Am at Southern Trace, Bryant spoke about life as a member of the AJGA Tour, his aunt and her plight.
“A man approached me after the whole thing and told me he was glad someone was trying to raise awareness for ALS because, he too, was trying to raise awareness,” Bryant said. “I believe his brother had ALS and died a few years back.”
The AJGA Tour encourages its members to develop a philanthropic mind-set, something Bryant has clearly embraced. The AJGA returns the favor, too. Bryant has received assistance for hotel fees, meals and gas through the ACE Grant program.
“The AJGA has definitely been a fun experience,” said Bryant, who spent his Saturday evening reading in preparation for his senior year and college. “I really enjoy playing in tournaments. It leads into college and I want to play college golf.”
Bryant is unsure of his college plans, although Louisiana Tech and Rice are the current frontrunners.
Whether it’s Ruston or Houston, there is little doubt Stephanie Bryant will continue to provide motivation.
The fund-raising efforts won’t stop with a high school diploma, but it’s not just about the money. Bryant’s modest goal of raising $500 pales in comparison to the exposure aspiring golfers like him lend to their causes.
“Raising awareness is worth a whole lot,” Bryant said. “When you get more people in on it, everyone doesn’t have to donate, but the word gets out.”
Someday, a birdie – by Rex Bryant III or another fighting for the cause – literally or figuratively – will finally secure a victory against the nasty disease.
Back Bryant’s Birdies for Charity