Jeff Smith passed away last week after a battle with leukemia. For 25 years, Smith was the head of the golf program at Weber State University, as well as the head coach for the women’s team. He was 61. Through those years, coach Smith’s reach and impact on golf at Weber State and throughout Northern Utah grew.
Guy Yocom, senior writer for Golf Digest and Weber State alumnus, shared his thoughts about coach Smith.
“When I met him, I instantly had a lifelong friend. He was working at El Monte (golf course) teaching juniors, you know, little kids,” Yocom said of Smith. “He schooled those guys and taught them good values, character and sportsmanship. He ingrained a work ethic in a lot of them.”
Yocom met Jeff in the late ’70s while playing golf, and that friendship lasted well until Smith’s passing. “He was always totally immersed in other people and their well being. I always felt in debt for his friendship and for the things he did.”
When asked how he would explain Jeff to someone who has never heard of him, Yocom said, “He was sort of like George Bailey in the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ The moral of that being, if Jeff had never been born, I don’t think that the complexion of golf in Northern Utah — or certainly the complexion of athletics at Weber State — would probably look the same.”
Throughout the week and culminating with his funeral on Saturday, both members of the community and players processed the loss of coach Smith in their own way.
“Personally, I’m from Idaho. I was recruited by him to play golf for Weber State,” junior Lexie Albi said of coach Smith. “He is the No. 1 reason why I came here. I truly believed he was so much more than a coach. I really feel like he is a dad to me.”
Albi and the team have taken the sudden loss to heart and have applied it to finishing the season strong. “This loss has brought us closer together and has given us so much fire to play for him,” she said of the team’s reaction to the loss.
Like others who knew him, Albi will remember above all the lesson that coach Smith taught in his every day actions.
“Love people regardless of what they have ever done to you and just to have grace with everything, no matter what,” Albi said. “He was just that, he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. I think if we could just all live like that, we could be better people.”
Although coach Smith is gone, his legacy will not be forgotten. The memories players have of him and his life stand as a witness of the life he led and of the game he loved. His influence and impact on the sport is ever present and will remain deeply rooted in Utah and Weber State University for generations to come.
“I just believe that trying to be selfless and caring for others is what I have gotten out of that relationship,” Albi said of coach Smith. “If I can live like him, I can be the best version of myself.”