Most of us could easily do without cooking and laundry—but not Francie Harris Kaufman. She is happiest when she can cook breakfast, lunch and dinner at home. Because when you spend most of your time living out of a suitcase—in her case on the PGA tour with her new husband and professional golfer Smylie Kaufman— mundane chores like cooking and laundry become actual godsends.
Throughout their courtship, Francie always knew that the golf game would be a vital part of Smylie’s life, and ultimately their life together, in some way or another. Golf is simply, as Francie describes, in his blood. Smylie’s grandfather coached the UAB Blazer golf team from 1998-2013, both of Smylie’s parents played at LSU, and Smylie hasn’t left the course since he started walking as a toddler. Still, it wasn’t until after Francie’s college graduation when the reality of Symlie’s future on the green truly set in. She had traveled to Las Vegas to support him in the second tournament of his first PGA tour, where he won by one stroke. In that moment, everything came full circle.
“Seeing how excited he was to win and how his hard work paid off, I thought ‘How can I not travel with him, support him and watch him do what he loves?’” Francie says. “He worked towards this for so long, and to experience that victory with him, it just solidified everything. It was like, ‘Yup! This is how we’re going to do it.’”
Today, after dating for nearly a decade—and a proposal on the 14th hole of the Shoal Creek golf course—the high-school sweethearts are now four months into newlywed life and travel coast-to-coast following the PGA Tour.
It all started when 15-year-old Francie, a sophomore at Vestavia Hills High School, grabbed the attention of fellow classmate, 16-year-old Smylie Kaufman, a typical kid who had a dream to “be a professional golfer who wears [Ralph Lauren] Polo,” according to his third-grade prediction worksheet.
Study dates for chemistry and math tests blossomed into casual “hang-out” dates, which meant frequenting the former Rave movie theater, Starbucks and Moe’s Southwest Grill in the Vestavia Hills City Center. It wasn’t long before Smylie, diploma in hand, headed South to take a shot (no pun intended) at bringing his dreams to life, starting with a collegiate golf career playing for the LSU Tigers. A year later, Francie set out for Auburn University to become a child-life specialist. Though 420.7 miles apart, Francie and Smylie vowed to remain committed to one another.
While Smylie dedicated himself to his golf game, Francie made the cut for the Auburn University cheerleading squad, which swallowed up any extra free time on her calendar, making it even more difficult to stay connected to Smylie. “It was really hard,” Francie says. “We were both so busy and really involved in our own sports. But, we got into a routine, knowing when the other was available to chat each day. FaceTime is a great thing, and made life so much easier since we only saw each other every few months. But somehow, we made it work.” In the midst of what would eventually shake out to be a five-year, long-distance relationship with Francie, Smylie found his way to the PGA.
Although their marriage is still in its infancy, the couple reports they have traveled to 23 different states, countless cities, and two foreign countries together, collecting stories, snapping photos and building countless memories along the way. That’s why Francie started her @FairwayFinds Instagram account in August 2016.
“Originally, the account was just for me,” Francie confesses. “I wanted a place to document our life on the road so I could remember restaurants we really liked or an area that had a lot of fun things to do.”
But once Francie was officially out on the tour that fall, she began to receive all kinds of inquires from people everywhere about life on the road. How do you maintain a health and wellness routine when you aren’t at home? What are your go-to items that make traveling easier? With a bit of encouragement from her younger brother, Francie adjusted her approach to the account and now uses it to share new adventures, food finds, healthy living advice and travel tips with all 13,600 of her current followers. She also created a blog called Fairway Finds where she can share more details on a variety of travel topics—things like carry-on essentials, recommended active wear for girls on-the-go and TSA-friendly snacks to pack.
One of the blog’s more popular topics is packing, a sore subject for anyone who has financially stripped by more than one airline for going over the luggage weight limit. Like many women, Francie was always an “over packer,” and admits in the early days on the tour, she doubted that everything she wanted to bring would fit.
“It’s easy to pack in the summer,” Francie says. “But when traveling to the West Coast in January, we have to pack everything from summer clothes to a winter jacket. You just never know.”
With a few trips now under her belt, Francie reports she has “packing down to a science” and (most of the time) can fit everything into one suitcase, one rolling carry-on and a backpack, which is pretty impressive considering their trips last as long as three weeks.
She attributes her knack for packing and navigation of life on the tour as a whole to their group of friends in what she calls “the golf world.” “I’ve been really thankful for the community [of friends] that we’ve built [on the road],” Francie says. “We have a lot of people to look up to—people who have been out doing this for over 20 years—who give us advice, build us up and support us. They just get it. It would be extremely lonely without them.”
While Francie admits to being “blessed” with amazing experiences out on the tour (meeting Justin Timberlake currently sits at the top of Francie’s list) and the opportunity to explore beautiful places, she stresses that life on the road isn’t as glitzy and glamorous as it looks.
“After walking over 6 miles on the course each day, we are both just really drained,” Francie says. “Sometimes we explore and do fun things once the sun goes down, and other times all the energy I can muster is sitting by the hotel washing machine to make sure we have clean clothes for the next day.”
There’s no telling how many adventures the Kaufmans have in their future, but there is one thing they know for sure. “People always ask us if we will stay in Vestavia,” Francie says. “And the answer always is, ‘It’s our home. Absolutely we will!’ Not only are our family and friends here, but also, we just love everything about it. When we pull into town, we just get this comfortable feeling of home.”
10 Questions for Francie
1. Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
Smylie, of course and my dear friends! Then I’d invite Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere, Frank Stitt, Jimmy Fallon, all of the members of NEEDTOBREATHE, Justin Timberlake, Gwenyth Paltrow, Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins, Samantha Ponder, and finally Katherine and Jay Wolf.
2. What item in your closet (or suitcase) do you wear the most?
Workout clothes! I find my favorite pieces locally at Eleven Eleven in Mountain Brook Village or at Lululemon.
3. What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
I love recipes by Skinnytaste and The Defined Dish! Chicken Milanese by Skinnytaste, and Thai Coconut Green Curry Salmon or Lemon Basil Pesto over Chicken and Zoodles by The Defined Dish are a few of my favorites.
4. What are your top three travel items?
Healthy snacks (Julie’s Real granola, Georgia Grinders nut butter pouches, and GoMacro bars are my favorites right now!), a travel steamer, and my Away carry-on (it has a portable battery for charging my phone inside the suitcase, so no more fighting for an outlet at airports!).
5. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Being nominated to serve on the board of the PGA Tour Wives Association as the vice president of community outreach. Through this association, we work with charities in the communities to which we travel. The St. Jude Patient Art Party is one of my favorite events that we do!
6. What are your makeup bag essentials?
Le volume de Chanel mascara, Kevyn Aucoin Neo-Bronzer (highlighter, blush and bronzer all in one!), and It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye concealer.
7. What’s the latest thing you splurged on?
Krewe sunglasses! I absolutely love the brand and don’t leave home without them.
8. Of all the cities you’ve visited, which is your favorite?
La Jolla/San Diego, California. It is home to some of my favorite restaurants and breathtaking views! I love the atmosphere in the different beach towns on the coast and the healthy lifestyle.
9. If you had one superpower, what would it be?
There are so many travel days that I wish I could just blink and be at the next destination.
10. What was the last book you read?
Little Fires Everywhere. I am a huge fan of Reese Witherspoon’s book club. She picks a new book every month, and I have read and really enjoyed several of her picks! You can find her monthly picks on Instagram @ReesesBookClubxHelloSunshine!