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Jeff Smith Posthumously Named Big Sky Coach of the Year
By Jon Oglesby
Big Sky Conference Communications Director
OGDEN, Utah — Late Weber State golf coach Jeff Smith was not a fan of compliments, unless they were about someone else.
Smith didn't like to be praised; instead, he liked to praise others. Smith never asked for what others could do for him; instead, he famously asked what he could do for others. Humility was the trademark of a man who loved three things, in no particular order- life, golf and people.
Smith, who was popularly known as “Smitty” around the college golf circuit, passed away in mid-February, after battling leukemia. His passing left a hole in collegiate golf, not to mention the hearts of his many friends and coaching colleagues in the Big Sky Conference. Thousands of tributes from around the world poured in in the wake of Smith's passing, showcasing a legacy of kindness and caring.
In response to his impact, the league's women's golf coaches unanimously voted Smith as the Big Sky Women's Golf Coach of the Year on Friday. Smith is the first Big Sky coach to win coach of the year honors, posthumously.
This is the third time Smith has been honored as the Big Sky Coach of the Year, previously winning the award after the 1998 and '99 seasons. Smith led the Wildcats to a Big Sky title in 2001, and recorded four runner-up appearances in the conference tournament. The Wildcats finished in the top-four of the Big Sky tourney 11 times in Smith's tenure.
While Smith would have certainly pushed away the praise and adulation associated with winning a Coach of the Year award, others were eager to praise a man who was as famous for supporting other Big Sky teams as he was for his own.
Weber State athletic director Jerry Bovee said the honors are fitting for a coach who dedicated his life to seeing others succeed.
“This is an amazing honor for Coach Smith and his family,” said Bovee, who considered Smith to be a close friend. “It reflects the sentiment of all who knew “Smitty” and is a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to young people.
“Jeff would have wanted to thank his fellow coaches and the Big Sky Conference for this honor. Also, as he was prone to do, he would have credited his players and friends of our program for their support.”
Smith's coaching colleagues were also quick to praise him, for a variety of reasons.
Northern Arizona coach Brad Bedortha said Smith played a large role in Big Sky golf, both on-and-off the golf course.
“'Smitty' was one of the best people I have ever known,” he said. “He always greeted you with a warm, welcoming smile, and truly loved being around the players and coaches. He set a great example for all of us coaches on how to treat people, and his attitude was infectious. (Jeff) lived an incredible life; it was an honor to be able to call him a friend.”
In spite of dealing with such an emotionally-draining personal loss, Smith's team honored their late coach on the course at the 2016 Big Sky Women's Golf Championships, shooting their lowest-ever round in tournament play (290) in the final round. Weber State finished fourth in the tournament, their best finish of an emotional spring.
Scott Erling, Weber State's men's golf coach, and Smith's assistant, former Weber State player Sara Federico, coached the Wildcats after Smith's passing, in a season that became about more than just playing golf.
Erling said the entire Weber State golf program takes pride in Smith earning Coach of the Year honors once again.
“Weber State golf is honored that long time coach Jeff Smith has been named the Big Sky Conference Women's Golf Coach of the Year,” he said. “'Smitty' epitomized everything that was good about collegiate athletics, and no coach cared more about his program and his players than Jeff Smith did. 'Smitty' will be missed, but will never be forgotten.”
Besides working as the coach of the Weber State women's golf program, Smith also served as the institution's Director of Golf, overseeing the men's golf program. He was a well-known supporter of the Weber State men's and women's basketball programs, and was a cheerleader for anyone who was associated with Weber State University.
Smith was a native of Ogden, Utah, and graduated from Weber State in 1980 with a degree in business administration. He worked as a golf professional at El Monte Golf Course and Golf City, in Ogden, before becoming the Weber State women's golf coach in 1990.
He was also involved with giving the gift of golf to a variety of different audiences, working as the Director of Golf for the Utah State Special Olympics. Smith also worked on a national level with the Special Olympics.
A noted teacher of the game, Smith won the 1989 Utah PGA Teacher of the Year, and was a recipient of the 1996 PGA Junior Golf Leader Award.
Smith is survived by his two daughters, Tarra and Courtney.