Lundyn King carefully placed her left hand on the grip, thumb square on top, as Joe Smith advised.
“That’s the hot dog,” Smith said. “Now fold your right hand over the thumb. That’s the bun.”
King, 7, connected with the hot dog-and-bun grip, because she sent two straight tee shots airborne at the Dryden Park practice range. Smith smiled. It’s his job – correction, his passion – to pass on golf to players of all ages.
“You need golfers to grow the game,” Smith said. “We have to get people who don’t play, or have left the game, and retain the people we have.”
Smith, 36, speaks with conviction about all things golf. He’s the man behind the Joe Smith Instruction Academy, which is gaining a foothold at Dryden, Creekside and Modesto Municipal.
“I always say, ‘Reach for your potential. Know why you play the game,’ ” he said. “If it’s going to be just for fun, it’ll be fun. If you want to be competitive, let’s be competitive. It’s what you want out of the game.”
Smith is no stranger to the area. He worked on and off over the past 13 years for FM Golf, the company run by former Modesto City Golf Director Sue Fiscoe, and at Manteca Park and Brookside Country Club in Stockton. Raised in Stockton, he played for St. Mary’s High and finished second in the state in 1997 at San Joaquin Delta College.
Today, he’s a PGA pro and an independent contractor, but he and officials of Kemper Sports – the company that now manages the city courses – worked together to devise the program Smith has set in motion.
Simply, Smith knows the game and wishes to grow it. That the number of participants has dropped slightly in recent years bothers him.
“Every PGA Tour tournament is on national TV. We’re doing something right,” he said. “We stopped catering to golfers and catered to business. Now it’s time to focus again on the golfers. My target audience is people.”
Smith, a volunteer for The First Tee of Central Valley, is ready, willing and able to bring golf to all customers. He’s also collaborated with The First Tee’s John Gristen to host weeklong camps this summer for ages 8 to 18. The first of five camps begins June 23.
“My junior boot camps,” Smith said. “Each day, we’ll work on life skills first and health habits, then rules and questions, then golf skills.”
He’s fond of the quote from the late President Theodore Roosevelt: “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.”
Does Smith think it applies to golf? Surely as Tiger Woods hits it deep.
Contact Smith at (209) 483-7086 or email@example.com.
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