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Mike Smith, former PGA golfer, Selma native, loses battle to cancer

Former golf professional Mike Smith, 63, a Selma native, lost his battle with lung cancer Wednesday.

Smith was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in December.

Screen shot 2014-05-22 at 2.07.04 PMAccording 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 were very close friends.

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

He started playing golf at age 12 when friends talked him into picking up the game. It quickly turned into a passion.

Smith, a graduate of Albert G. Parrish High School (now Selma High School), 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 in an interview with the Times-Journal in March. “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 recalled 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, caddied for Smith at tour events and knew smith for more than 40 years.

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

During his interview with the Times-Journal in March, Smith said he hoped to beat cancer and wasn’t 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.”

A graveside service will be Friday, May 23 2 p.m. at New Live Oak Cemetery, with Tom McLemore, minister of the Church of Christ in Selma and Bryant Evans, minister of Church of Christ of Daphne officiating the service.

The family requests in lieu of flowers that memorial gifts be made to the American Cancer Society, Eastern Shore Church of Christ, Houston Park Church of Christ, Selma, or the Church of Christ in Daphne.