Courtesy of Mike Wise Photography
It is 7 p.m. on a Wednesday, and senior golfer Brad Smith is still on the course. He is almost ready to go home, but he just wants to get this last chip perfect. It doesn’t quite feel right, and he knows he will have to make it in his upcoming tournament. After a few more chips, however, darkness tells him it is time to leave.
Besides, he doesn’t want to keep his wife waiting.
This is the college life for Smith, one filled with school, golf and marriage. It is not that of a typical senior in college, a Division I athlete and certainly not of a typical husband.
But for Brad and his wife, Carmen Smith, their relationship has never operated on a typical schedule, and they are OK with that.
The two started dating when Brad, 22, was finishing up his senior year of high school. Carmen, about 16 months older at 23, had just completed her freshman year at Indiana. They knew they would be going in different directions, but that didn’t ruin their relationship. They did what was necessary to make it work.
“It was difficult at times, but we just made the trips and visits to each other,” Carmen said. “I probably came here a little bit more because of his golf schedule, but we just had to really trust each other and make it a priority to see each other when we could.”
After about three years of managing a long-distance relationship, Carmen graduated from Indiana and Brad said he felt like the time was right. So, during the winter break of Brad’s junior year, he proposed.
Carmen said that although they had talked about it before, she was surprised, thinking he would wait until his senior year.
While Carmen was surprised, Brad’s friend and senior teammate Bo Hoag was on a different level.
“I can’t tell you how shocked I was, not necessarily that he was going to get married — it’s just that I’ve never had a friend or anybody my age get married,” Hoag said.
Hoag, along with three other seniors on the golf team – Michael Cress, Tanner Murphy and Evan Wood – was in the wedding party in August.
Brad said the five came in together as a recruiting class and did everything together from freshman year on.
Although he and Carmen now live in an apartment in Dublin, he uses golf as a mandatory hang-out time to see his best friends. He also gets to go home to Carmen every night, a new luxury that might be helping his golf game.
“With being long distance it was usually just a phone call every night,” Carmen said. “Living with him now, I will be with him the night before he has a huge tournament, so just living together and being able to talk about it whenever we want has helped him.”
Brad is having his best season. He leads the 24th-ranked Buckeyes (81-39, 23-9 Big Ten) with most rounds under par, and has four top-20 finishes in tournaments, including a win at the Florida Atlantic University Spring Break Championship on his way to a Big Ten Golfer of the Week award. His eighth-place finish at the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate tournament this weekend helped OSU to third place.
Brad said having Carmen’s support after going through some tough days has been good for him.
“The last couple of years, all the focus was on golf, and now when I go home at night I can kind of take a step back from that and focus on her and our separate life,” Brad said. “Golf is something I do a lot, but it is more enjoyable because it’s not consuming everything I do now.”
That is not to say married life is perfect.
While distance was the challenge before, Brad’s busy schedule now plays the role.
The psychology major routinely is gone until 7 or 8 p.m., leaving studying mostly until he gets home at night. He is away at tournaments for several weekends, such as during spring break when they did not see each other for 11 days when he won the FAU championship.
Carmen said being in the long-distance relationship before getting married helped prepare her for Brad’s schedule and that she now is able to go to a lot of his tournaments, something she couldn’t do before.
“When we do have the time together, we’re really intentional about how we spend it as far as going out to dinner and date nights and all that kind of stuff,” Carmen said. “When he’s here we make the effort.”
And for the nights Brad might come home a little too late from practice, his coach, Donnie Darr, is there to help.
“Most of the time I tell him to use me as the excuse when he gets in trouble,” Darr said. “If he’s out there practicing late I always just tell him: ‘Blame me, Smitty. It doesn’t matter if she gets mad at me.'”
Darr said he keeps his “ribbing” about Brad’s marriage a little more private but said the rest of the team likes to get on him.
Being married while in college falls in the unusual category for many people, and Brad said other classmates take notice.
“Every time I’m in a group or something in class, they will come up, ‘Are you married?’ They will see the ring or something,” Brad said.
It has also traveled with the golf team, as Hoag said other players always seem to know.
“I guarantee that just about every tournament there is some guy who will be like, ‘Is that your teammate, the guy that’s married?’ They can’t believe it,” Hoag said.
After Brad completes his final year, he said he will try to play professionally, a place where being married will not seem so abnormal.
It will be the next challenge for a relationship that has seen plenty of them, and Carmen said they will just see how it goes.
“College sports are intense, but I think doing it at that level will be even more intense, so it is a little bit nerve-racking,” Carmen said. “It’s exciting, though, and I am going to try and get to what I can as far as being there with him.”
The couple has gone through three years of distance, eight months of different schedules and many late nights of Brad perfecting his game for the next level.
But Darr said he thinks Brad still has a lot of learning to do.
“Until he gets four kids under the age of seven,” Darr said, “he’s not going to have any idea what I’m living.”