Terry Smith might not have the easiest job in Orillia, but, arguably, he has the nicest office.
Smith has been the Teaching Professional at Hawk Ridge Golf Club for the past five years.
He spends his days at a private area on the course where he teaches students of the game from all different age groups and skill levels.
Smith’s career in golf started in 1992 when he did a six-year apprenticeship at Lake St. George Golf Club.
He then moved on to Couchiching Golf Club where he was the Head Professional for 12 years. Smith went on to work as an Associate Professional at the Barrie Country Club and then eventually landed his current role at Hawk Ridge.
Smith’s love for the game of golf came way before he began working in it.
“I started playing when I was four years old. My parents got me started early playing at Couch when I was growing up, and then when I was a teenager we moved out near Lake St. George and that’s where I played most of my teen years,” says the 55-year-old Smith.
Smith not only loved the game, he was good at it. Smith won the Ontario Bantam Championship which was for golfers 13 years old and younger; it has since been changed to an under 15 championship and is called the Ontario U-15 Championship.
“I played amateur golf and junior golf competitively. There are only five Orillia residents who have won provincial championships at the amateur and junior level and I was one of them,” Smith noted with pride.
Smith would continue to see success in his adult years. He was the Men’s Club Champion at Lake St. George six times before he got his pro card in the early ’90s.
Now that Smith’s role in the game has evolved from player to coach, he no longer plays at a competitive level.
“I haven’t played competitively for the last seven or eight years. For me, it’s more now about work than play,” Smith explains.
“When playing at the competitive level, you are playing against guys who are pretty good golfers who play all the time, and I’ve played three rounds of golf this year … that’s why I don’t go and compete.”
From the outside looking in, you would think that Smith works his dream job, but the reality is, Smith had to sacrifice something he loves - playing golf - to pursure a career with the game.
“I’m not sure dream job is the phrase, but I do love my work,” said. “It’s a game that I fell in love with as a kid. The sad part is when you like it so much and want to do it for work, then you don’t get to play any more because it’s your work now, and you try to do things to make sure everyone who is playing is enjoying it, and that is gratifying,” said Smith.
Three years ago, Smith’s teaching talents were recognized by Lakehead University’s Orillia campus, as they were looking for a new coach for their varsity golf team.
“I saw it as a really good opportunity to work with something local and to have local students,” said Smith, who has had just one job outside golf - working at a grocery store while a high-school student at Park Street Collegiate Institute.
The university golf season is very short. It gets started just after Labour Day and runs just past Thanksgiving, so Smith has limited time to work with his players.
“When it comes to the game from 40 yards out from the hole, a lot of students won’t be as good at that game as they could be with some practice, so that’s something I focus a lot on. When they get to be 40 yards out from the hole, I make sure they can get on with their next shot,” he says.
Smith also says he works on helping students better understand the fundamentals of the game within the short season.
“If they come into play, they have played a bit of golf on their own, so the majority of the students need to better understand how to manage their game,” Smith explained.
“They need to learn when to hit certain kind of shots, when to lay up to something like a creek, or if they have a tighter hole, thinking about using less club to make sure they hit it straight, different things about managing the game.”
Smith feels that his main responsibility as the Lakehead coach is to keep the students involved in the game.
“Golf is a lifetime game. If you can interest young people in playing, and have them enjoy it and playing it the right way, there’s a better chance that they are going to continue playing their whole lives and get their families involved in it,” he said.
Once the golf season winds down for the year, there is no time for Smith to rest, as he takes off his golf shoes, and laces up a pair of skates.
Smith has been refereeing minor hockey - as high as the AAA level - ladies’ hockey, and girls’ hockey for 44 years.
“Hockey is a hobby,” Smith says. “It’s the best way for me to stay involved in the game. For anyone who wants to stay involved in hockey, refereeing can be a lot of fun.”
Smith used to play hockey at the Junior C level for the Gravenhurst Indians back in the early ’80s. He still plays pick-up hockey two times a week locally, but says officiating is his favourite role to play within the game.
“It’s the best seat in the house when you're out there and you get to see some neat stuff. Being in the action all the time is a lot of fun. It’s just a fun game to be a part of,” he said.
Smith says that spending his time in the winter months refereeing hockey is part of a family tradition.
“My uncle was a referee in Orillia and my older brother has refereed ... it was just a natural thing for me to do,” he says.
Smith’s involvement in the Orillia sporting community has been recognized by many, and it’s all been worth it, he says.
“When you grow up in a small town and you're as involved as I’ve been, you make lots of connections. The new people who come to work with me say I should run for mayor. I joke about it and say I’m the golf mayor of Orillia,” Smith chuckled.
On top of his jam-packed schedule teaching golf and refereeing hockey games, Smith is a father to three boys: Dawson (20), Donny (17) and Jack (14) and is married to his wife, Kelly.
“Without the support of my wife Kelly and my family, in my really busy times I couldn’t possibly do what I do,” Smith said.