LOS ANGELES — Friday night’s Southern California sky slowly turns to black as the sun sets. Marcus ByrdJust outside the Riviera Country club’s locker room, Byrd is pacing back and forth. Byrd is at 6 over after 34 hole and will not make it to the Genesis Invitational. There he received the tournament’s Charlie Sifford exemption. Tiger WoodsHe can’t leave, but he can. The darkness caused the second round to be suspended. Now, the logistics of a Saturday morning return to the course to play two holes before heading to Florida for the next tournament await the 25 year-old.
This is not a new concept for Byrd. Byrd has been living the lifestyle he wants since he became a professional late in 2020. He can drive his own car and stay at affordable hotels all across the country. He no longer considers his home to be four walls with his family. Instead, he now considers it to be anywhere he can find a friend and a place to rest his head before heading to his safe haven: the golf course.
Byrd explained that he was spending his last dollar on a trip to a golf tournament. It’s calling your uncle to pay for it. It’s looking for someone there to stay with for a few weeks so I don’t have to pay for a hotel. It’s me calling my buddies to find out who’s going so we can rent a car together. It’s not being in a position to book a hotel in a major city and ending up sleeping in a truck bed. Byrd paused. “I did shoot 64 the next morning, though,” Byrd said.
It was great to meet Jack and Marcus. My journey began at Riv in ’92. I hope you will take the lessons learned from this week. Play well. pic.twitter.com/R8Dir9GlbG
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) February 14, 2023
Byrd’s drive, talent, and determination have kept him going. These past months have been as close at validation as he’s ever received. Byrd has had two wins and five second-place finishes in his eight APGA Tour starts (the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour) during which he competed. This tour is designed to increase diversity in the sport. One of those wins was just a few days ago at Torrey Pines. Max HomaThe Farmers Insurance Open was won by Byrd. Byrd birdied two holes at the Farmers Insurance Open to win $30,000 and a place in this week’s Honda Classic.
Byrd said, “I’ve been playing solidgolf, and that’s how my career has been funded.” “I’ve had only one sponsor up to the Genesis announcement.”
Twenty years after he first picked up the game, Byrd continues to persevere despite all obstacles, financial, practical, and emotional. It has been a difficult decision to devote his life to the sport, with its highs and lows. But it has continued. It has evolved but Byrd believes it is still possible to fulfill his dream. This dream has become a promise since 2020, when his father died.
Karen Jefferson, Byrd’s mother, stated that “He must make it to the PGA Tour. There is no other option in him.” He promised his dad that he would complete this journey.
Marcus Byrd’s golf course is located at the end of the D.C. Streetcar line on Benning Road, less that 10 miles east of The White House. Its history is both unique, and it is painfully familiar. In the mid-1900s, a group consisting of Black golfers hoped to desegregate local golf courses. Instead of being allowed on the same public courses as everyone else in the D.C. region, they were given a place to build their own. In this instance, it was an abandoned dump site.
Langston Golf Course was born from that land. The course was Byrd’s second home. It was where he could play golf with Larry, his dad, and also where he could spend whole days without him.
Byrd said, “I could be dropped there in the morning, and could be out to that place without money in my pocket. People would buy me breakfast and lunch.” “People would just go to the clubhouse, even if it wasn’t their game.” It was a truly special place.”
Byrd wasn’t too concerned about playing with kids his age. He spent most of his time playing with his uncle and dad, or just standing around the putting green and short game area trying to replicate the shots that he saw older golfers execute.
Jefferson laughed and said, “He was kinda an old soul.” He did the First Tee for a time, but he preferred to play with the older people. He enjoyed hanging out with them.”
Despite his unconventional development, Byrd was able to lead the Maryland state championship during his freshman year. He finished second, which prompted him to have a serious conversation about his father. From that moment, Byrd knew that his priority was to make golf his profession.
Marcus Byrd won the @APGA_Tour Farmers Insurance Invitational 🏆
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 30, 2023
Larry rented a abandoned driving range near Jefferson’s mother’s house in Temple Hills (Maryland), called Golfzilla. Although it is now closed permanently, it was where Byrd spent his afternoons and evenings after school. He practiced under the lights his dad had given him so he could stay out there as long as he wanted.
Byrd stated that “they just did everything they could to keep a club in my hands.” “My dad’s final years and my mom’s up to now have been devoted to helping me get where I need to be.”
Although Larry was Byrd’s unofficial coach and playing partner, she became Jefferson’s assistant during high school. She had to accept a larger role in Byrd’s career despite her physical limitations.
Byrd was just nine years old when Jefferson hit Byrd’s car head-on with a stolen utility truck from nearby Andrews Air Force Base. Jefferson required a prosthetic left arm and “a lot” of metal to stabilize her left side. Concussion symptoms similar to those experienced by football players were caused by her head injuries. It was not clear whether she would be capable of walking again.
Jefferson stated that she had to learn how think, write and do everything again. In her quest to get compensation, she was also hindered by the fact that her vehicle had been registered to the government. She laughed, saying “I didn’t become millionaire.” “I have been disabled since then.”
Although the accident had many changes, Jefferson was determined to ensure that Marcus’ goals were not affected by it. She made sacrifices to ensure that this did not happen. After Marcus’s improvement, Jefferson wanted to ensure that he could play better golf against better players in better tournaments through American Junior Golf Association. She did extensive research to find a grant that could fund Byrd’s entry.
Jefferson started creating spreadsheets that detailed the tournaments Marcus could play. These spreadsheets included details about how much each tournament would cost, whether they could drive or fly to it, and where they could stay.
Jefferson stated, “I wanted to plan to strategize to make sure that he had all the opportunities available to him.” Sometimes, I wish we had the same resources as other players. A swing coach is just as important as a mental coach. I always tell people that if he had all the resources, they would be unstoppable.
Sean Foley was on patrol at Sage Valley Country Club’s driving range during the 2014 Junior Invitational when he noticed something that stopped him dead in his tracks. The legend swing coach noticed the junior player standing in front of him. He was one of only a few who made it to the tournament. Foley did a double take when he noticed that the player in front of him was not hitting the ball faster or straighter than any other. It was his perfect impact position.
Foley, the former coach at Middle Tennessee State who recruited Byrd to the school, told Whit Turnbow that he wouldn’t change his move. Byrd recalls Foley calling Foley’s move “a combination” Dustin Johnson Sergio Garcia.”
Turnbow’s favorite description of the move is “a little Furyk,” referring to the former PGA pro Jim FurykIt’s a unique, but effective, swing. Of course, Byrd is the one who created it. It doesn’t feel like something that was taught or designed by a textbook; it’s more of an artistic representation of Byrd, who is unabashedly himself in a sport that often rejects such an idea.
Turnbow stated, “The thing about Marcus it that that’s his movement and he owns him,” describing Byrd’s approach to golf.
2013 was a pivotal year for Byrd, as he won the Georgia State Junior Championship. Byrd began to receive college offers and realized that he had the potential to succeed at the next level. His talent and his circumstances were noticed by college coaches. Turnbow at Middle Tennessee, the coach who was hired as his replacement, was the most connected to Byrd and his family than anyone. Brennan Webb.
Byrd became one the best players on MTSU’s team. Mark McEntire, Byrd’s coach in his senior season at MTSU recalls Byrd telling him, during a conference championship, that all they had to do was make it to match play. Byrd was three down in his match. McEntire reminded Byrd he had once told him that he was good at match play. Byrd shot 29 on the back 9 to win the match.
McEntire was told by Byrd after the win, “I told you that I was a pretty great match player, coach,” Byrd said to McEntire.
Webb said that Marcus was at his best when the lights were turned on. “As soon he got to a tournament, or got close to contention you know, his energy picked-up and he became engaged. His talent shone then.
Webb is what Byrd calls “a second dad” and they still keep in contact regularly. His time in Tennessee continues to shape his career. Turnbow runs the Tennessee Golf Foundation. Byrd was able participate in a rewards program that The Grove funded and granted membership to junior golfers who couldn’t afford it.
McEntire, Turnbow and Webb form a support team that helps Byrd get to the right people and places. They will help Byrd find a place to sleep if they know someone. Turnbow found Byrd a sponsor in the past to pay for a year of mini-tours.
Turnbow stated, “He’s got an amazing support system here for when he needs it.” “We text sometimes and he says that he wouldn’t be here without us guys. But that’s not true. Marcus is a great player of golf, but it is his determination and willingness to keep going that have gotten him to this point.
The 18th tee shot at Riviera Club is a blind shot. It leaves a steep climb to its serpentine fairway. It is no easy feat to walk up the hill. Jefferson, who had been walking the first nine holes in Byrd’s second round with his family, splits from the group that goes up the hill on Friday afternoon. The walk around to the right side of the hole takes less effort and is longer.
Jefferson smiles and says, “I still cannot go up hills like this.” “This is how i learned to walk again. Marcus playing on the golf course while I walk.
Since Byrd was a competitive golfer, one of his parents has walked the courses with him. Larry would accompany Jefferson on his work trips before the accident. Jefferson was ready to assume that role when Larry’s illness (chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD) prevented him from doing so. Jefferson stated, “We shared the journey together.”
It is clear that there is something missing as Jefferson and her family stroll along Riviera’s fairways. Larry was always the one who talked Byrd through rounds and shots, both good and poor, before and afterwards. Larry died in 2020 due to chronic obstructive pneumonia disease complications caused by COVID-19. Byrd was unable to visit Larry because of restrictions. He never said goodbye.
Byrd stated, “He was a fighter.” “In my later years, he did everything I could to make certain I got to where he needed me to.”
Larry’s death brought into question Byrd’s efforts in golf. Byrd and Larry had always shared the dream of playing at a high level. Byrd had no choice but to look inside, admitting that golf had become something he avoided the grieving process.
Byrd explained that he had to find what I really loved and what kept him coming back every day after he died. It was the memories. Every time I played, it was the memories.
Byrd believes that the most lasting memory of his dad will not be of him in his final moments but of him attending the NCAA regionals in North Carolina in 2018. Larry was not well but he was still able to watch Byrd fulfil the dream they had both started.
These memories serve as reminders of the ultimate goal, especially when Byrd is struggling to get there. This week at Riviera was special because Byrd and his family were taken care. The grind began again as soon as Byrd left for Florida and the Honda Classic. The hotel prices in West Palm Beach were way out of his budget. A friend from D.C. found someone who owned a Holiday Inn nearby. A special rate was offered, and it was happily accepted.
However, Byrd will always start things the same way no matter how he gets to that first tee in any tournament. He’ll tee it up, then back up, and then take a look at the sky. He will point in that direction to his dad and then go into his pre-shot routine. Once he has taken the club back, he is done. He is exactly where it is supposed to be.