The Winter Garden resident earned three PGA Tour wins. He died May 31, 2022, in a car crash.
If one thing is true about PGA pro and Winter Garden resident Bart Bryant — besides the fact that he was an amazing golfer — it is this: He was an amazing human being who made friends everywhere he went.
Bryant’s life came to an abrupt end Tuesday, May 31, after he died in a car crash in Polk City. He was 59.
Fellow golfer Curt Saathoff met Bryant in 1986, when the only mini tour in the entire nation — other than the PGA tour — was the Space Coast mini tour. They both signed up for the competition with one common dream in mind: turn pro.
“He was one of the friendliest, nicest guys you ever would have met,” Saathoff said. “He was a genuine friend.”
Bryant first held a club at the age of 8. Since then, he dedicated his life to the sport with determination, perseverance and passion.
Despite suffering from injuries throughout his career, Bryant was named an All-American at New Mexico State University, turned professional in 1986 and entered the PGA Tour in 1991.
Success wasn’t immediate — and didn’t come until after he turned 40. His first PGA Tour win was his 187th start — the 2004 Valero Texas Open.In 2005, he won the Memorial Tournament and, a few months later, defeated Tiger Woods to capture the season-ending Tour Championship by six shots. In only 142 appearances in the PGA Tour of Champions, he won twice, logging 29 top-10s to make an appearance on the top-25 world ranking.
Bryant finished his tour career with 317 starts.
“He was very special,” his older brother, Brad Bryant said. “I always said he’s the guy that I always wanted to be when I grew up. Even though he was my younger brother, he was the much better example of what a Godly life looks like. He was just really a good man. He was generous to all, and he was kind to all and pretty much a friend to anybody that came along.”
Because of his excellent hand-eye coordination, Bart Bryant not only was good at golf but other sports, as well.
“When he must have been 11 or 12 (years old), he got a unicycle,” Brad Bryant said. “The very moment that he got it, he got on the unicycle and started riding it — and rode it as if he’d been riding it for years. He was always an extremely coordinated individual and just one of the greatest. He was the guy that no matter what you did, you always picked him first. If it was shooting baskets or playing trivia, that’s how good he was. He was pretty good at sports always, and he excelled at golf extremely.”
The Bryant brothers made an impact during their respective years at Alamogordo High School in New Mexico. First, the school had to make an exception for Brad Bryant to be allowed to play in the men’s golf team when he was a freshman. Later, when Bart Bryant was in eight grade, the school made another “special rule” to allow him to play in the men’s golf team.
Larry Izzo met Bart Bryant and his brother in 1986, when he became a PGA member at Walt Disney World. He said he lost count of how many Cokes he had to buy to Bryant during his years of friendship.
“We would play together and practice together,” Izzo said. “He used to tell me, ‘If you want to play, we won’t bet, but I’ll play you for Cokes. I lost a lot of Coca-Colas to him.”
Saathoff recalled playing a local mini tour with Bart Bryant at MetroWest more than 20 years ago. That day, Saathoff got the better of his friend.
“We were playing together the last day, and when we were done, he shook my hand, and he said, ‘You are a great player, Curt. Don’t ever quit. Continue to chase your dreams in professional golf,’” Saathoff said. “To lose to me like that, by one stroke, and (for him) to walk up to me and tell me (that), it meant a lot to me.”
Faith was important to Bart Bryant and his family.
“His relationship with Christ really kept our family centered and going forward,” Brad Bryant said.
“He was always there for anybody who needed him,” Izzo said. “In all the years that I knew him, I never ever heard him say a bad thing about anybody. He was just a good, Christian guy.”
Bart Bryant is survived by his second wife, Donna; daughters, Kristen and Michelle; and his stepchildren. His first wife, Cathy, died of cancer in 2017.
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