OGDEN — The Weber State and golf communities said a tough goodbye to a man many considered a friend.
Jeff Smith, called “Smitty” by those who knew him, was a Wildcat through and through. A native of Ogden, Smith graduated from Weber State in 1980 and was in his 24th year as director of golf and head women’s coach at Weber State before his sudden passing Tuesday morning at the age of 61.
“He might be the best human being I’ve ever met, and I really mean that,” Weber State head basketball coach Randy Rahe said. “All he cared about was others. He never wanted anything for himself. It’s a sad day. He’s meant as much to Weber State and the city of Ogden as anybody that’s living here right now. Words can’t express how much we’re going to miss him.”
A big supporter of all Wildcat athletics, Smith was often seen in the stands of the Dee Events Center watching men’s basketball practice, always ready for a conversation with Rahe.
“He was in here just sitting and watching practices all the time,” said WSU center Zach Braxton. “He was one of Weber State’s biggest fans. He had a lasting impact on me, and I know the girls on his golf team have a lasting impact because of him too. He was a great man.”
Before coaching at Weber State, Smith was the resident golf pro at Ogden courses Golf City and El Monte for a combined 22 years.
His positive influence and attitude were apparent with the amount of condolences expressed near and far upon the news of his passing.
“When I came to Weber State, he was one of the first people to welcome me and bring me over my first Wildcat gear,” WSU head softball coach Mary Kay Amicone said. “He was always the happiest, upbeat, outgoing guy. I am just so sorry for his family. He’s such a great man.”
Many more beyond campus used social media to remember Smith, including former Wildcat and current NBA guard Damian Lillard.
On Facebook, Lillard posted a photo of he and Smith with the caption, “R.I.P. Smitty... When I talk about those people I crossed paths with at Weber State that impacted my life it's people like this guy that I'm talking about. Great Person and a great Golf coach... You will be missed my friend.”
Professional golfer and Davis High graduate Clay Ogden also shared his memories of Smith on Twitter, saying,
I just learned of some very sad news. R.I.P. Jeff Smith. One of the great guys. Gave me my first golf lesson at age 8. He will be missed.— Clay Ogden (@OgdenClay) February 16, 2016
Administrators at the Big Sky Conference also remembered Smith. Jon Kasper, assistant commissioner, tweeted,
Devastated by the passing of my great friend Jeff Smith. Kind, thoughtful, giving. Thoughts and prayers to his family and all at Weber St..— Jon Kasper (@jon_kasper) February 16, 2016
Media relations director Jon Oglesby also added his thoughts, tweeting,
Sad to hear about the passing of one of my first friends in the Ogden area, Jeff Smith. RIP Smitty; thanks for being one of the good ones!— Jon Oglesby (@thethunderrolls) February 16, 2016
A pair of Salt Lake Tribune sports writers remembered Smith as well. Kurt Kragthorpe tweeted Smith was “absolutely one of best people I've ever known.”
Kragthorpe’s colleague, Jay Drew, tweeted, “Jeff Smith gave me a lesson in '92, then asked about my swing every time I saw him the next 20 years. What a kind, thoughtful, friendly guy.”
In short, all remembered Smith fondly as giant of northern Utah who will be greatly missed.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.