Former PGA Golfer, Smith, battles lung cancer

Published 6:48 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Former golf professional Mike Smith, 63, has been involved in final round battles with some of golf’s all-time greats, but right now he’s fighting a big battle off the course.

Smith, who is originally from Selma, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in December and spends a lot of his time getting radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

“They are trying to zap it out, nuke it out or whatever they can do,” Smith said. “It seems like there is really a good bunch of guys down here working with me and I’m impressed with all they’re doing. I feel as good as I can about it.”

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Smith said he developed a bad cough in December he couldn’t get rid of so he decided to go to a walk-in clinic to get checked out.

Doctors did a chest X-ray and Smith was told to get to a hospital to get further evaluated. Soon after, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Smith is given chemotherapy treatments three or four times every three weeks and he gets radiation nearly every day.

Smith just started a new round of chemotherapy Monday, which will be given to him two more times this week.

“Three or four more chemo treatments and they are going to reevaluate me I think, next week, and kind of check it out and see what’s happening,” Smith said. “Hopefully, something good comes out of it.”

Smith also said doctors are treating several spots on the back of his brain.

According to the National Cancer Institute’s website, Stage IV lung cancer is diagnosed when cancer has spread to other parts of the body, cancer is found in fluid around the lungs or heart, or there are one or more tumors in both lungs.

Tommy Burns, PGA Professional at the Selma Country Club, is Smith’s brother-in-law. Burns married Smith’s sister and the two are very close friends.

“I talk to him a couple of times a week,” Burns said. “I think all in all he is doing fine but he has his times and his moments like everybody would.”

Burns said Smith is losing a little hair, but outside of his nagging cough it would be hard to tell anything is wrong with Smith.

Smith played his last Champions Tour event in 2010, but it wasn’t very long ago that he was a regular on the PGA Tour.

He started playing golf at age twelve when friends talked him into picking up the game. It quickly turned into a passion.

Smith became a big fan of Arnold Palmer — hanging posters of the seven time major champion all over his walls — and learned part of his swing by watching Jack Nicklaus play

After graduating from Brevard Junior College, Smith tried several times to get onto the PGA Tour through qualifying school.

“I went to Q-school three or four times right after I got out of college and didn’t make it,” Smith said. “It was so expensive to go to Q-school that I skipped it a few times.”

Eventually, in 1980 at Pinehurt Golf Course in North Carolina, Smith played well enough to qualify for the PGA Tour at age 30.

He finished second two times in his PGA Tour career, at the 1985 Panasonic Las Vegas Invitational and at the 1981 Magnolia Classic.

Smith recalls the 1985 Las Vegas Invitational like it was yesterday, saying he birdied holes 15, 16, 17 and 18 only to watch Curtis Strange beat him with a birdie at 18.

“The tournaments I did play good at on tour I got beat by Curtis Strange and Jose Maria Olazabal in Belgium and Colin Montgomerie in Portugal. All three of them are Hall of Famers. It seems like every time I played good I always caught a wildcat by the tail or a Hall of Famer,” Smith joked.

Smith admits he would’ve liked to have won an event, but he had a solid career without ever getting into the winner’s circle.

“Every day was a thrill, playing out there with the boys — Trevino, Nicklaus and Palmer,” Smith said. “It was so exciting.”

Smith had 14 top ten’s in 336 career PGA Tour starts and seven top ten’s in 126 Champions Tour starts.

Bo Redman, a PGA professional at Quail Creek Golf Course in Fairhope, has caddied for Smith at tour events and has known him for over 40 years.

“I’ve caddied for him in Hawaii,” Redman said. “I’ve caddied for him all over the country, just being his friend. We’ve had some fun times together.”

Redman said he can’t remember Smith ever being sick in the time he’s known him, which is why he was so surprised to hear that he had lung cancer.

With his health in its current state, Smith hasn’t been able to get on the golf course much lately.

Smith said doctors have told him he can play when he feels like it, but in the last few months he has only played one round, because he doesn’t have a lot of energy.

“Hopefully, I will get some good news because I’d sure like to play a few more holes,” Smith said.

Smith said he hopes to beat the cancer and that he’s not going to give up the fight.

“I’m going to try. I’m not going to give up on it,” Smith said. “I’ve never been a quitter so I’m going to fight it and see what happens. Maybe I’ll be around for a while longer, I sure hope so.”