Agostini on Golf: Modesto golf instructor grows the game

05/27/2014 8:18 PM

05/27/2014 8:42 PM

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

THE SHAG BAG – Modesto’s Jeff Burda has returned to form this year with three consecutive wins, including the Trans-Mississippi Senior Championship this month at La Quinta CC. Burda, 61, shot 73-71-72 for par 216 and a two-stroke win over David Mooty of Eden Prairie, Minn. Burda also won his fifth Sacramento County Senior with rounds of 73 and 67 at Ancil Hoffman in Carmichael, topping runner-up Peter Canevari of Modesto by four. ... Patrick Burda, Jeff’s son, also is playing well with a second at the Manteca City and a third at the Tulare County Amateur ...

Turlock’s Ashish Raje, a 14-handicapper, enjoyed his best-ever round, an 80 recently at Creekside. But he saved strokes in an exciting way – with a double-eagle 2 at the par-5 13th. Raje launched a 5-iron second shot over the mound on the right – after a wind-riding tee shot – and didn’t actually see the ball disappear. After a few minutes of his search, he peeked at the flagstick and confirmed his “albatross.” ...

Hilmar’s Landon Azevedo took full advantage of his home course by shooting 70-66 – 136 to win the overall title of the Central Valley Junior, the first of four Junior Golf Association of Northern California events this year at Stevinson Ranch. Sonora’s Bill Kiriluk tied for second (73-70 – 143), and Central Catholic star Matt Robinson (77-71 – 148) tied for sixth. ...

Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp and Saddle Creekin Copperopolis welcomed the region’s top seniors last week for the Northern California Golf Association Senior Four-Ball Championship. Local pair Marco Dusi and Ken Webb combined for a 10-under 206 for three rounds to tie for fifth, nine shots behind winners Frank Pieper and Mike Staskus. ... Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, the host of the 1982 U.S. Women’s Open, prepares for the 2015 U.S. Senior Open.

HOLE-IN-ONE – David Jones, Escalon, 132-yard 11th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 7-iron.

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