Snedeker honors Nashville at THE PLAYERS
Brandt Snedeker will wear golf shoes displaying the words: Nashville Strong after devastating tornado
March 11, 2020
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Brandt Snedeker finished T5 at THE PLAYERS Championship last year. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Brandt Snedeker’s daughter Lily came running down the stairs, full of excitement, on Tuesday morning of last week.
It was her ninth birthday. A special day. Cake and ice cream was on the horizon along with ribbons and bows and presents. But as soon as she looked at her parents, Lily could tell something was wrong.
Snedeker had been awake since about 4 a.m. when his phone started blowing up with text messages from friends and family. Were they OK? Had the brutal storms and tornadoes that roared through Tennessee in the wee hours spared them?
“My wife and I were both just in shock,” he recalled Wednesday before heading out to play a practice round for THE PLAYERS Championship. “My little girl came downstairs. She was so excited because it's her birthday. She turned nine and she's like, ‘What's wrong? Why aren't you guys excited?’ We started showing her pictures, turned the news on and she realized oh gosh, this is really serious.
“We started getting reports of how many people ... I think 24 is the final total of people that had passed away from that. And that's when it hits you. The stuff people lost; our city will recover. It's the people who can't recover, right? The people that lost their lives, it really hits you. ... It was a tough day.”
Excited to be @THEPLAYERSChamp this week but my heart is back in Nashville.. Honoring everyone affected by the tornados last week with these shoes from @gfore.. Playing for all of Nashville!! #nashvillestrong pic.twitter.com/pKXBxcaUvM— Brandt Snedeker (@BrandtSnedeker) March 12, 2020
Surreal was another word Snedeker used, more than once, during the interview outside the massive clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass. The Snedekers live south of Nashville and were spared any damage. But they had friends who were hard hit, and the city where he was born and still resides will be in recovery mode for a long, long time.
“It was so sudden, so quick,” said Snedeker, whose G/FORE golf shoes will display the words: Nashville Strong this week. “It was not a big storm. Didn't feel like it was one of the ones you really had to worry about. Then you wake up to the devastation we saw, and you realize that in a blink of an eye, everything changed for a lot of people.”
Schools were reduced to rubble but thankfully, no lives were lost in those classrooms because the EF-3 tornado hit at night. Too many businesses and homes to count were destroyed, particularly in the East Nashville area, an up-and-coming neighborhood filled with trendy restaurants and the kind of cool stone houses people love to renovate.
“What was crazy about it is you'd have one side of the street that was leveled, one side the street, not,” Snedeker said. “The randomness of the tornadoes is really hard for people to kind of take and grasp. From there, it just stayed on the ground forever.
“And probably the worst images you'll see are from Cookeville, Tennessee, which is about an hour east of town, where it just literally looked like a bomb went off. I mean it was severe damage and these are all brick homes, beautiful homes that just got leveled and so it's going to be a long recovery effort.”
In the short term, Snedeker is trying to help his friends get back on their feet. The roof to one’s apartment was blown off, the family’s belongings a total loss. So was their car in the garage under the apartment building.
“They luckily made it out, but they lost everything inside,” Snedeker said. “Single mom that we've known forever. You hear those stories and you're like, okay, I want to help her. I know her personally. We're going to get her back and going.
“But then you think about all the people I don't know that have had something similar happen. What can we do for them?”
Snedeker is trying to figure that out right now. He knows there’s an influx of people who have been doing the grunt work, clearing roads and property with chain saws, replacing roofs and drywall. Hotels have opened their doors to the displaced. People have donated water and clothes and food.
“I was really kind of buoyed by that, knowing that Nashville is a community, we do care about people involved in it,” Snedeker said. “So, for me it's been hard kind of figuring out where I fall in with this, how can I help? What can I do? It's easy to write a check and just say, ‘Here you go, here's a bunch of money.’ And go to the people you want.
“I think we want to do more than that. I want to do more than that. The thing with these kinds of disasters is everybody gets really excited about them or wants to help out, over enthusiastic probably the week after. Then three months down the road, that's when people really need you. So, we're trying to figure out the best way to say, okay, how can we service people three months down the road who still don’t have a home, still don't have a car, that need a job because their business place got lost, whatever it may be?”
The Brandt and Mandy Snedeker Foundation that he and his wife started after he won the 2012 FedExCup is sure to be involved. Maybe they hold a charity golf tournament. Maybe they partner with some of Nashville’s many entertainers to raise funds for the relief. No matter what, they’ll find a way to make an impact.
Snedeker said the celebration for his daughter’s birthday went on that night as scheduled. But it was muted after a day filled with a such a sense of sadness, mourning even.
“You had a sickness in your stomach all day,” he said. “You couldn't believe. You kept thinking it wasn't real, and then you'd see the pictures coming online and you see people just lost everything. Everybody's faces when you walked around town that day ... it just looked like everybody was drained.
“It's still that way a little bit. There was a sense of pride afterwards, seeing everybody come together and get downtown and do some good work and try to help people get back. But it's a long process. It's such a long process. You see pictures of all these volunteers working all day long.
“There's no finality to it. Still a lot more to do, still a lot more rebuilding so it's going to take that sustained effort over months and months and months to get back to here we need to be.”