Raleigh’s Grayson Murray, a PGA Tour golfer, dies at age 30 after withdrawing from event

Professional golfer Grayson Murray, a Raleigh native who played collegiately at Wake Forest and East Carolina, died Saturday, according to the PGA.

He was 30. No cause of death has been released.

“We were devastated to learn — and are heartbroken to share — that PGA Tour player Grayson Murray passed away this morning,” PGA commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement. “I am at a loss for words. The PGA Tour is a family, and when you lose a member of your family, you are never the same. We mourn Grayson and pray for comfort for his loved ones.”

Murray competed in the PGA’s current tour stop, the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday and Friday. He shot a 2-under 68 on Thursday but was 5-over on Friday’s round through 16 holes when he withdrew from the tournament due to an undisclosed illness.

PGA officials opted to continue their tournament Saturday, with grief counselors on site.

“I reached out to Grayson’s parents to offer our deepest condolences, and during that conversation, they asked that we continue with tournament play,” Monahan said. “They were adamant that Grayson would want us to do so. As difficult as it will be, we want to respect their wishes.”

In January, Murray won the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii in a playoff. Murray sank a 40-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to defeat Byeong Hun An and Keegan Bradley. That vaulted him to a career-high 46th in the Official World Golf Ranking, and qualified him to play in his first Master’s Tournament, and just his third major.

Following that win in Hawaii, he spoke with reporters about his struggles with alcohol and mental health.

“My rookie year in 2017, I was young and thought I was invincible,” Murray said. “I wasn’t doing the best stuff off the course to give myself the best chance to succeed out here. Over the years I’ve given in a few times. When I try to give up, someone gives me a little more inspiration, saying `You’ve got it. You can do it.’ Those are the people that are close to me that I can lean on in hard times. I’ve got to keep pushing through. That’s the only way I know how.”

Alex Smalley, a PGA Tour golfer from Greensboro who played college golf at Duke, said Saturday he was “shocked” over Murray’s death.

“It doesn’t seem real,” Smalley said in a text message to the News & Observer. “Hard to wrap my head around the fact that I won’t see him out on Tour anymore. My heart and condolences go out to his family.”

A state champion as a high school golfer at Raleigh’s Leesville Road High School, Murray attended Wake Forest, Arizona State and ECU before turning professional. He got his break in 2016 when, after receiving a sponsor’s exemption, he placed in the top 10 of the Raleigh’s Rex Hospital Open, a Korn Ferry Tour event.

That allowed him to participate in another tour event and he placed in the top 10 of the BMW Charity Pro-Am. At age 22, he finished that season No. 2 on the Korn Ferry Tour money list, which earned him his PGA Tour card for the 2017 season.

He won the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship in 2017.

But Murray said he struggled with alcohol addiction over the years, the News & Observer reported last year. Last June, while participating on the Korn Ferry Tour at the UNC Health Championship at Raleigh Country Club, he said he’d been sober for 32 days.

“I feel like I’m doing a good job of having a balanced life and putting things in perspective,” Murray said. “Talent never leaves you. You just have to work and work through your tough times and be patient.”

Last May, after winning the AdventHealth Championship, Murray spoke to his personal issues.

“My parents have been through hell and back basically for the last six years with me fighting some mental stuff,” he said. “It’s not easy on me and the people around me that love me.”

Murray survived a serious motor scooter accident while in Bermuda in 2022 playing in a tournament. He and his then-caddie, Doug Schwimer, were riding separate scooters when Murray collided with a car on a narrow street. Murray, who said alcohol was not a factor in the crash, suffered serious injuries that required 50 stitches.

“That was a good wake-up call,” Murray told the N&O last year. “Life can end abruptly, but luckily my helmet saved me there. It was really tough. When I got home, I couldn’t get out of bed. Had to pee in a bucket. I couldn’t lift my left leg. I couldn’t sleep at night, couldn’t get comfortable. There were times when I didn’t know if I could play professional golf again, but I had good doctors here in Raleigh, the rehab was good and I was able to play golf again in about three months.”

Speaking last January in Hawaii after winning the Sony Open, Murray referred to his scooter accident among his numerous low points.

“My scooter accident in Bermuda was really a low point in my life,” Murray said. “I’ve obviously been vocal about the alcohol use in the past. I’m over eight months sober now. I have a beautiful fiancee that I love so much and who is so supportive of me. My parents are so supportive of me. My caddie is one of my biggest cheerleaders.

“It just makes things so easy when I get out here inside the ropes when everyone in my circle is really pulling for me. And they are right there with me when I do have hard days. And I still do have those hard days. But I feel a lot more at peace inside the ropes now.”

Smalley said he played some practice rounds with Murray, most recently in Hawaii before the Sony Open in January.

“We talked a decent amount and it seemed like he was in a great place in his life,” Smalley said. “...He had just gotten engaged and spoke very highly of his fiancee and how excited he was to start a life with her when they were to be married later in the year.”

PGA Tour golfer Peter Malnati, who was in Murray’s playing group on Friday, wept during a CBS interview on Saturday during coverage of the Charles Schwab tournament.

“I’m taking it really hard,” Malnati said. “I didn’t know Grayson all that well but I spent the last two days with him. It’s so funny. We get so worked up out here about a break here or not getting a break there. We’re so competitive. We want to beat each other. And then stuff like this happens and you realize we’re all just humans. It’s just a really hard day because you see Grayson, who has visibly, outwardly struggled in the past. And he was open about it. You could see him get his life in a place where he was feeling good about things.”

Smalley said Murray had told him how much he was looking forward to playing the U.S. Open at Pinehurst next month.

“He expressed how much he was looking forward to playing a major championship in his home state and how he had that week circled on his calendar all the way back in January,” Smalley said. “I know he will be dearly missed and remembered not only as a great golfer but also a good and courageous person.”