Bart Bryant, 59, dies in car accident
Bart Bryant, who grew up in Alamogordo, played college golf at New Mexico State and became a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, died Tuesday in a car accident in Polk City, Florida, according to various media reports.
He was 59.
According to the Associated Press, Bryant was killed and his wife was injured when a truck slammed into their SUV while they were stopped in a line of vehicles on a central Florida roadway for a construction crew, authorities said Wednesday.
Bryant was unresponsive when emergency responders in Polk City found him Tuesday afternoon. He was taken to a hospital where he died. His wife, Donna, 49, was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said in an emailed statement.
According to the sheriff’s office, the Bryants’ SUV was stopped at the construction site near an intersection. A truck traveling in the same direction failed to see their stopped SUV and slammed into it, the sheriff’s office said.
The sheriff’s office said an investigation was ongoing. Bryant lived in nearby Auburndale.
“He was a champion on and off the course and will be dearly missed by many,” the PGA Tour Champions tweeted.
Perhaps the most impressive of Bryant’s wins came in 2005 when he beat Tiger Woods by six strokes for the Tour Championship title.
“What a tough competitor,” said Steve Haskins, a friend, who also played golf at NMSU and on the PGA Champions Tour. “Beating Tiger by six. How many people can say that they have done that?”
Bryant and his brother, Brad, were born in Texas but grew up in New Mexico, where they were junior golf and mini-tour legends.
Dan Koesters, 62, the former director of golf at New Mexico State and a former Washington State coach, first met Bart when he was 9 when their group of friends began playing golf at the small, nine-hole course at Alamogordo Country Club.
Koesters, who is retired in Florida, said he was in disbelief when he heard the tragic news about the death of his friend.
“Bart had just built a new house in Auburndale,” Koesters said. “He designed it. He was super proud of it, the way it turned out.”
Koesters said Bart and his wife were building a new life together, and that Bart was happy.
“He was just plain and simple,” Koesters said. “There had never been an egotistical bone in his body. He was one of those aw-shucks kind of guys. He didn’t have a fancy dish as his favorite meal. He loved chicken fried steak and fried okra. He was just a simple guy who loved to play golf and who loved life.”
Bryant was about five years younger than Koesters, who remembers the first time Bryant competed in a tournament in Roswell.
“It was freezing,” Koesters said. “He was a little guy. We had put hand mittens on his head to help keep him warm.”
When Brad Bryant played on the PGA Tour, Koesters said Bart was determined to make it on the tour too. Koesters and Bart Bryant would drive to different courses in New Mexico for practice.
“He just played golf and made the dreams that all of us had as kids come true,” Koesters said. “That was pretty neat.”
Bart Bryant had been contemplating a comeback on the Champions Tour, Koesters said. Bryant had an injured wrist that was healing.
“He had an outside chance to hit it far enough to play,” Koesters said. “The competitive nature of Bart, he wanted to give it one last shot, to try to see if that could be a possibility.”
Bryant is survived by his brother, his wife, daughters Kristen and Michelle and his stepchildren.
“The PGA TOUR is saddened by the tragic passing of Bart Bryant and our hearts go out to his family and friends during this difficult time,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement. “The Bryants have been a part of the PGA TOUR family for over four decades and we are grateful for the impact and legacy he made on our organization and countless communities. Bart will be dearly missed.”