Hugh Smith Jr.
Hugh Smith Jr., a highly educated, multi-talented individual with glowing business credentials, still remembers his first day on the job as executive director of The First Tee of Phoenix in Arizona. A scratch golfer and former college All-American, Smith observed an 11-year old member of The First Tee of Phoenix putting on a practice green and promptly challenged the youngster to a putting contest.
“I was beat pretty bad,” admits Smith. “But what impressed me was that the young man, Timmy Briones, took off his hat, shook my hand, and said ‘better luck next time’ after he beat me. Timmy is now 14, and is one of the top players in Arizona.” If Smith had any second thoughts about giving up a challenging, lucrative job as an accountant, auditor and executive in the Office of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, it took him less than a month working with youngsters at The First Tee of Phoenix to realize he made the correct career decision.
“I have always liked children, and I enjoy helping others and taking pride in making a difference,” says Smith, who was selected to lead The First Tee of Phoenix three years ago, and also serves as vice president of the Junior Golf Association of Arizona and on the board of directors of the South Mountain YMCA.
It wasn’t long ago that Smith Jr. was working in the Mississippi Governor’s Office as a procurement officer in the Medicaid division. He then served as an accountant in the Mississippi Bureau of Compliance and Financial Review in the Medicaid division, all after earning dual degrees in business finance and business management from Jackson (Miss.) State University.
So how does a 34-year-old Smith find himself serving as Executive Director of The First Tee of Phoenix? Two magnets – golf and teaching youth how to succeed in life – pulled him back to the passion and pastime of his youth.
Smith’s father, who spent 28 years in the U.S. Army, began to teach his son the ins and outs of golf in the mid-1980s on the renowned Bayonet and Blackhorse courses at Fort Ord near the Smith home in Seaside, Calif. Smith’s first job was working the driving range, parking carts, cleaning restrooms and assisting in the pro shop at The Navy Post-Graduate School Golf Course in Monterey, Calif.
In college, Smith helped Jackson State become the first historically black college or university to qualify for the NCAA Golf Championships in 1996. In his senior year at Jackson State, Smith earned individual medalist honors at the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship. Smith was in the enviable position of being able to write his own ticket in the business world following his graduation from college. But the golf magnet pulled him to the Metropolitan Golf Association in Elmsford, N.Y., where Smith served three years as the assistant director of the Tournament Department and helped coordinate a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign for the MGA. His love for golf then took him to the position of Grants Manager with the United States Golf Association in Colorado Springs, Colo. Golf called again after Smith’s stint in the Office of the Governor in Mississippi, this time taking him to Phoenix, where the nonprofit, highly ambitious Phoenix
Thunderbirds wanted an executive director well-educated in golf, finance and working with youth to lead The First Tee of Phoenix.
“The First Tee of Phoenix and the Thunderbirds wanted a high-energy, highly educated person from the business and golf side, and they certainly found one in Hugh Smith Jr.,” says Curt Hudek, executive director of the Southwest PGA Section, which works closely with Smith Jr. and The First Tee of Phoenix. “Hugh is an extremely positive guy, who has the skill sets to work with kids and in the business community.
He has become a highly visible and effective voice in the community.” Smith, an Eagle Scout who remains active in the Boy Scouts of America, his church, the community and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., has become a highly respected leader and role model for the young people involved in The First Tee of Phoenix.
One of Smith’s most memorable moments came when The First Tee conducted one of its national meetings in Phoenix and he was asked to have two of his young members address the gathering. “I was asked to have two of my best members speak about what The First Tee meant to them, and they both did a marvelous job.”
As has Smith.
Source: PGA Magazine