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Passing of Jeff Smith Brings Outpouring of Love From Players, Coaches, Friends

by Joe Watts

Jeff Smith, one of Utah’s most loved golfers, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, and his death has brought forth a remarkable showing of love and respect from his many friends and associates. His funeral will be held in Ogden on Saturday, February 20th at 11:00 a.m.   To view the details of the service please click HERE.

Jeff was the Director of Golf at Weber State for 25 years with responsibility for both the men’s and women’s teams, but he showed is partiality by assigning himself as the head women’s coach almost all that time. He hired others to coach the men’s team.

In all those years he never rocked a boat, lost his cool, or took unfair advantage. He was a gentle, soft spoken giant. There was never a word of animosity or a hint of jealousy in his character. He was friends to his foes. He was never front and center and in that regard he stood head and shoulders above the crowd.

He motivated his players with kindness, loyalty, and praise for every little improvement, not only in the golf, but in their struggles with life.

His teams weren’t world beaters. His players were not the top recruits in the nation. He coached whoever came and they did their best, and all improved and some exceeded all expectations. His players learned to love the game and they played because they enjoyed it, and they enjoyed their teammates, and most of them are still enjoying the game he taught them to enjoy.

Here are some of the comments from his friends.

Tennille Howe Slack, a former Women’s Utah State Am champion, and who played for Jeff and was also an assistant coach for him, was clearly broken up about the sad news.

“There isn’t a chapel big enough to host his funeral. He was loved by everyone,” she said between tears.

“Two words that immediately come to mind and sum up all my emotions are “True Friend.”  I think these words are being expressed by nearly everyone who knew him.  Anyone he associated with felt that he was his or her true friend.  He made everyone feel important,’ she said.

“When it comes to golf, I don’t know anyone in the State of Utah who has had a greater impact on the game of golf, yet it was done quietly with no fanfare or no seeking of credit.  His positive influence was felt in every aspect of golf: including the PGA, UJGA, USWGA, high school and college golf and through his great love of teaching. His love for the game of golf was infectious.”

“Weber State will not be the same without Jeff.  He extended himself into every aspect of the school.  It seemed like he knew every student-athlete and their story and he knew every coach and attended many athletic events.  He also made a great effort to get to know teachers and administrators on campus.  His outreach to the community was like no other coach I have ever seen.  He was so involved and knowledgeable about Ogden and the people who live there.  I truly believe it is because he loved Weber and Ogden with all his heart.”

“Jeff changed my life.  It is because of him that I was able to play college golf.  I had very little experience in golf, yet he was willing to take me under his wing and teach me.  He taught me a lot about the game of golf, but even more so, he taught me to be a better student, daughter, sister, friend, teammate, and citizen.  His goal as a coach, was to give girls the opportunity to first, get their education, so they could contribute to a greater purpose in society, and second to get better at golf, develop a love for the game and then to share that love with others.  He understood what many do not: It is important to be your best self.  Work hard, play hard, enjoy the moment and help others along the way.

Kelsey Chugg, three time Utah State Women’s Amateur champion and now Director of Membership Services for the UGA, was devastated by his death.

She said, “He was the most selfless, kind, generous and funny guy that I have ever met. He mentored me and guided my life in so many positive ways. I don't know what else to say, he was like family to me. I think that he left a lasting mark on every life that he touched.”

Sue Nyhus, women’s head coach at Utah Valley University, said, “Jeff Smith was one of the finest coaches in the country. When it came to developing players he was a Hall of Fame kind of coach. He saw talent in everyone.  He encouraged everyone no matter whose team they were on.  He encouraged other coaches and mentored many current coaches.  He made the world a better place.  Jeff was an icon for junior golf in Utah as he watched many events every year.  He never missed a girl’s high school championship, and volunteered his time as a rules official every year.  Jeff never missed a women's am.  He was loyal to Weber State and honored the history of Wildcat Golf as he included Nancy Farrell, widow of former Coach Mike Farrell to stay involved with golf. Jeff was one of my dearest friends and I will miss him greatly.   

Allen Simkins, past president of Weber State and the Utah Golf Association, said, “Jeff Smith was one of the most genuine really “good guys” one would ever have the pleasure to know.  He was adored and respected by all of his Weber Wildcats and there have been many. He has been the face of Weber State Golf and particularly women’s golf for a quarter of a century.  His players all loved and revered him and they played their hearts out for him.  He will be sorely missed by all of us who had the great pleasure to know him and to walk the fairways with him.  He was a true friend and colleague and I already miss him. 

Jeff Beaudry, former Executive Director of the Utah PGA, said, “It is impossible to think of Jeff Smith without smiling. He was a warm-hearted person who truly cared about others. His contributions go far beyond golf and those he touched will think of him and smile once more. He will be missed.”

Bruce Brockbank, head coach at BYU, said, “This was a shock to most of us. He had cancer for two years and none of us knew. It was just like Jeff. He went about his business of coaching without drawing any attention to himself. He always took the high road and never participated in the side drama. He had such a great impact for good not only in his own program, but with all the players and coaches who knew him. We will really miss him and we will all be better by following his example.”

Dave Kearl, Weber State’s men’s golf coach, for ten years, said, “I’m sad beyond words. ‘Smitty was one of the great guys. He would do anything he could for anyone. He had no guile. If we all emulated him the world would be a better place.”

Tori Fishburn, former Weber State player and now a teacher and golf coach at Fremont High School, “Jeff changed the course of my life. He is the nicest, warmest, most genuine man. He treated all of us on the team like we were his own kids. It was the best five years of my life. As coach at Fremont I'm doing my best to be like Jeff.” (Tori has coached both the boys and girls teams at Fremont for nine years, including her brother Patrick who is now playing for BYU.)