Grayson Murray’s PGA Tour peers pay tribute following tragic death

Grayson Murray died at 30.

Grayson Murray died on Saturday at the age of 30.

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At the conclusion of a somber, surreal day at the Charles Schwab Challenge, PGA Tour players mourned the sudden death of Grayson Murray, their 30-year-old peer who’d withdrawn from the event just a day before.

On Friday morning Murray had teed it up alongside Peter Malnati in the 8:06 time off No. 1. Their third, Adam Schenk, had withdrawn following the first round with a back injury, so they played on as a twosome. But Murray withdrew following a bogey on the 16th hole, citing illness; Malnati finished as a single. On Saturday morning the shocking news came in a message from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan: Murray was gone.

After Saturday’s round Malnati joined the CBS broadcast, where he sat with Amanda Balionis.

“This is going to be really hard,” Malnati said, choking back tears. “I didn’t even know Grayson all that well, but I spent the last two days with him. And it’s funny, we get so worked up out here about, y’know, a bad break here or a good break there. We’re so competitive out here and you want to beat each other — and then something like this happens and you realize we’re all just humans.

“It’s just a really hard day because you look at Grayson and you see in him someone who has visibly, outwardly struggled in the past and he’s been open about it. And you see him get his life back to a place where, y’know, he’s feeling good about things.”

Malnati recalled a story from Wake Forest golf coach Jerry Haas. College wasn’t right for Murray — “he’ll be the first to admit that college wasn’t real good for him,” Malnati said — but he left an impression in the semester he spent playing for the Demon Deacons.

“The week of the Wyndham Championship I was talking to Jerry and he told me, he said, ‘I had Bill [Haas] come through here. I had Webb [Simpson]. But the most talented player I’d ever seen set foot on this campus I only got to keep for one semester and it was Grayson Murray.'”

Malnati wept as he continued.

“Just to know that he’s not going to be doing that anymore, I think it’s a huge loss for all of us on the PGA Tour. It’s a huge loss for our fans. In a time like this you realize that as much as we want to beat each other, as much as you want to be competitive, we really are one big family. And we lost one today, and that’s terrible.”

In the hours following his death, player tributes helped stitch together an image of a man who’d been open about his struggles with addiction, depression and anxiety but had made strides towards a promising future on and off the course — and seemed intent on helping others experiencing any of the same battles he’d faced.

Webb Simpson heard the news some 10 minutes before his Saturday tee time; he spoke to reporters following his round. He and Murray had shared a teacher who’d reached out to Simpson with the news.

“We have a long history,” Simpson said. “I think I first met Grayson at my home club when Grayson was probably eight years old, maybe nine.” Murray was also the first-ever winner of the Webb Simpson Challenge Junior Tournament. They’d played together on Tour as recently as the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago, when they were in the same group for the first two rounds.

“I know that his mom was with him during the Wells Fargo Championship and I think they were hanging out together, and I loved those two days we got together,” Simpson said. “So I’m super thankful for getting some good time with him before the bad news of today.”

Simpson added that he’d had a meal with Murray at Pebble Beach in January and had enjoyed hearing about Murray exploring his faith.

“It definitely seemed like there was more of a lightness to him, in a good way, over these past few months when I would see him,” Simpson said.

Justin Rose was in their group at the Wells Fargo; he posted to Twitter that he’ll remember their time together as a reminder that “you never know what challenges people have going on in their lives and how they may be internalising things.”

“RIP Grayson,” he concluded. “And love and strength to your family and friends.”

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was on site at Colonial Country Club Saturday afternoon. He’d first heard about Murray’s death just after 11 a.m. ET, he said, though he wasn’t in a position to offer up any details until the family had spoken publicly. But he addressed a years-old objection Murray had made about the Tour, which he’d alleged hadn’t helped him enough through his early struggles.

“Y’know, when Grayson said that, I called him right away,” Monahan said. “Over the last several years I spent a lot of time with him because I wanted to understand what we could do, in his estimation, in his opinion, to help everybody else out here.”

Monahan added he’s proud of the advancements the Tour has made in supporting its players. But he described himself as “devastated” by Murray’s loss.

“Listen, these are some of the best athletes in the world. They think they’re — and they are, in many respects — invincible. I think one of the things that I think back about Grayson’s openness is I speak about courage; he taught us all a lesson on that front, and that’s something I’ll never forget.”

Monahan said the Tour was planning to convene as a team on Saturday to make a plan to honor Murray going forward and to offer support to his peers.

“It’s not just about tomorrow. It’s about the weeks ahead, it’s about the months ahead,” he said. “There are a lot of people that are going to be carrying a heavy heart for a long period of time out on the PGA TOUR, and there’s a family that is obviously devastated that we need to support.”

At the urging of Murray’s parents, who spoke to Tour officials on Saturday, the tournament played on. “They were adamant that Grayson would want us to do so,” Monahan said. “As difficult as it will be, we want to respect their wishes.”

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler came off the course in second place at 10 under par and said the news hadn’t yet sunk in.

“I’m thinking about his family and praying hard for all of them,” he said. “I can’t imagine how difficult of a time this is. I got to know Grayson a bit better over the last six months or so and, yeah, really just, there’s not really a way to put into words how sad and tragic it is, but I’m thinking about his family.”

Will Zalatoris was among those who chimed in on social media.

“My guy lived a tough life,” he wrote on Instagram. “His struggles are over and I know he’s not in pain anymore. Hate to lose somebody who regardless of what people said was always so great to me. RIP brother.”

“Speechless to hear about Grayson,” Justin Thomas wrote on Twitter. “Guy had been through so many ups and downs to get where he was. I hurt so much for his family and the people closest to him. My condolences and deepest sympathies.”

“Life is so fragile,” wrote Bubba Watson. “I was just hugging you at the Masters, telling you how proud of you I am. Thankful to have known you.”

Luke Donald expressed his disbelief at the passing of someone he’d seen just a week prior. Ernie Els wrote that Murray was “for real and honest to the core.”

Smylie Kaufman wrote that he was “heartbroken” and that Murray was “a friend to me at some of my lowest points of my career and I’ll always be very appreciative of that.” Akshay Bhatia wrote that Murray was “a great friend that always supported me as I did to him.” And former Korn Ferry Tour pro Patrick Sullivan posted a message Murray had sent him offering encouragement after Sullivan had voiced his struggles with anxiety and depression.

“I deal with it myself,” Murray wrote. “Keep plugging along man you aren’t alone.”

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

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