Thursday, November 5, 2015

Rick Cleveland tells a tale of two Smylies

This is the tale of two guys named Smylie, one a 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie sensation who shot 61 in the final round of a recent Las Vegas golf tournament to win fame, fortune ($1.15 million) and a spot in The Masters next April.

He's Smylie Kaufman, and, he tries to make it two straight in the Sanderson Farms Championship at Country Club of Jackson this week.

The other is the late Smylie Gebhart, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer, a Meridian native and Georgia Tech football All-American, who inspired more folks in his 51 years than now seems possible. Smylie Gebhart died 14 years ago this month.

Smylie Kaufman is named after Smylie Gebhart, and, of course, there is a story behind that.

Smylie Gebhart was Smylie Kaufman's grandmother's cousin, and Jeff Kaufman's friend and inspiration. Jeff Kaufman is Smylie Kaufman's father.

Says Jeff Kaufman of Smylie Gebhart: “He was the guy you'd want your daughter to marry or your son to be like — just the nicest, most modest, unassuming guy. I always said that if I had a son, I would name him Smylie.”

And he did.

A quick history lesson for Mississippians not old enough to remember the great Smylie Gebhart: He played defensive end at 185 pounds and led the world in tackles, sacks and smiles. He was more than a football player. He was a scholar and a leader, one of those few players chosen to go entertain the troops in Vietnam. Too small to play professionally, he became a coach, first at Tech and then at Mississippi State. In 1979, he suffered a freak disk injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He lived his last 22 years as a quadriplegic.

“Smylie never lost that smile,” Jeff Kaufman says. “The same courage that made him an All American defensive end at 185 pounds helped him face that tragedy. Smylie was the best.”

Jeff Kaufman, who raised his family in Vestavia Hills, just outside of Birmingham, made sure Smylie Kaufman knew Smylie Gebhart. Meridian was a regular stop on the way to and from LSU where the Kaufman's regularly attended football games and other sporting events.

Smylie Kaufman was 10 when Smylie Gebhart died.

“I just remember my Dad always telling me what a great player and man he was,” Smylie Kaufman says. “Dad wanted me to know why I was named after him. I remember he (Gebhart) would have a smile on his face and a bible in his lap.”

Jeff Kaufman says he sees many similarities in the two Smylies.

“Their personalities, the way they approach life, are a lot alike,” Jeff Kaufman says. “Both are really giving people.”

When Smylie Kaufman was 14, he and his younger brother noticed too many friends and neighbors stricken with cancer and decided to raise money to fight the disease. The two Kaufman boys raised $65,000, using marathon golf as the tool in their Kids vs. Cancer campaign. Smylie Kaufman went on to LSU, where both his parents had played golf, and finished second in the SEC as a senior.

There seems little doubt Smylie Gebhart would take great pride in his namesake. Smylie Kaufman is first and foremost an athlete. He was the point guard on his high school's state championship basketball team. He excelled at all sports, before specializing in golf.

At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Smylie Kaufman has instantly become one of the PGA Tour's longest hitters. One example: He used a 3-wood to drive to within 15-feet on a 290-yard hole in the last round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He then sank the putt for an eagle en route to his final nine 29 and the one-shot victory. He averages 315 yards per drive.

In a phone conversation last week, Smylie Kaufman said he is still trying to wrap his mind around the 29, the 61, the victory, the seven-figure paycheck and invitation to his dream tournament, The Masters.

He has never played the Country Club of Jackson course where Jeff Kaufman's parents and grandparents were once members. A gallery filled with family and friends will watch when the great Smylie Gebhart's namesake tees it up Thursday for the first time as a PGA Tour champion.


Rick Cleveland ( is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Fish. A great story

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story !

Anonymous said...

I grew up watching and hearing about Smylie Gebhart play football. He was a wonderful person and did not let his injury change who he was. I'm happy to hear that his namesake is doing so well.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS