Smalley honors late friend at Sedgefield

Alex Smalley was on the putting green at Sedgefield Country Club on July 24 when he heard the approaching sirens grow louder and louder.

A fire truck stopped near the sprawling Victorian clubhouse to find out the quickest way to the sixth hole. Ambulance followed. But the emergency personnel were not able to save Jeff Womack, who had collapsed on the course on a hot, humid Saturday.

Smalley is wearing the initials JW on his cap to honor the 50-year-old Womack, who died unexpectedly “doing what he loved, playing golf,” according to his obituary. The lumber salesman was a married father of two daughters.

Smalley, who joined Sedgefield in 2020, had played golf with Womack several times. He remembers him walking whenever they played and had always felt his friend was in good health.

“I think it was hard for the whole membership,” Smalley said. “Obviously (there were) a lot more guys that played with him for a lot longer than I’ve known him, but he just kind of lit up the room whenever he walked into one, just because he had a smile on his face. He knew everybody and was very friendly.”

Smalley thought about putting the initials on his cap during last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic. But he eventually decided that the Wyndham Championship would be a more appropriate week to honor his friend.

The gesture was not lost on the many members and friends who have been in Smalley’s gallery during the first two rounds.

“We all went to the first tee (on Thursday) to see Alex tee off and to see that JW on his hat just made me smile,” said Eric Ferguson, the director of golf at Sedgefield. “And Alex is just a wonderful young man and to honor Jeff this week is pretty special to us.”

Smalley, who has a two-day total of 5 under and is just four behind the leaders, said he has thought about Womack several times during the first two rounds.

“I had a couple good breaks yesterday and I kind of thought, just kind of said, thanks Womack,” Smalley said. “I feel like whenever you can play for something more than yourself you kind of forget about golf.

“Golf’s just a game and although it is our job, it pales in comparison to some things in this world. And I think it does help a little bit.”

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