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A Model for Golf Professionals

Warren Smith, esteemed former pro at Cherry Hills, passes away

by Gary Baines - 5/5/2015

Warren Smith Jr. fell just short of hitting his 100th birthday, which would have been celebrated on Oct. 20. But that's one of the few notable milestones that the "Pro's Pro" didn't reach.

Smith, one of the most influential figures in the history of Colorado golf, passed away Sunday in La Quinta, Calif., at the age of 99. Services are pending, but Smith's son, also named Warren Smith, said it's hoped that there will be a celebration of life held in the Denver area this summer.

To say that the longtime head professional at Cherry Hills Country Club lived a full life would be a massive understatement.

As his son noted on Tuesday, "He wasn't cheated."

Indeed, Warren Smith Jr., won't soon be forgotten by those in the Colorado golf community. Just to tick off several notable items about Smith, who served as the head professional at Cherry Hills from 1963 through 1990:

-- He was one of the first national PGA of America award winners from Colorado, earning the Golf Professional of the Year honor in 1973, the same year he claimed a similar Section-wide award from the Colorado PGA.

-- In 2005, Smith was inducted into the national PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame.

-- In 2009, a well-received book about Smith -- "The Pro's Pro. Lessons on Life and Golf from the Ol' Pro at Cherry Hills Country Club," written by Tripp Baltz -- was published.

-- For almost 30 years, the Colorado PGA has given out the "Warren Smith Award", a lifetime achievement honor which goes to PGA professionals for outstanding contributions to the game of golf, the Colorado Section, junior golf and their facility. Fittingly, the first Warren Smith Award was given to Smith himself, in 1986.

-- Smith, a five-time president of the Colorado PGA, was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 1978, just its sixth year of existence.

-- At the time Smith was given an honorary membership at Cherry Hills, just two other people had received such an honor: President Dwight Eisenhower and Arnold Palmer, winner of the 1960 U.S. Open at the club.

"He was The Pro, simply," said current Cherry Hills head professional John Ogden. "He was arguably the most respected pro to ever come from Colorado. He played in several majors himself and he hosted five majors here.

"He had a great life. And everyone who met him said he was the consummate southern gentleman. No one ever had anything bad to say about him."

During Smith's time as head professional at Cherry Hills, the club hosted the 1978 U.S. Open, the 1985 PGA Championship, the 1990 U.S. Amateur, the 1976 U.S. Senior Amateur and the 1983 U.S. Mid-Amateur. Among his close friends were Palmer, Byron Nelson, Dow Finsterwald and Harvey Penick, who taught at Cherry Hills during a couple summers in the 1960s.

Smith is one of just six head professionals in the 93-year history of Cherry Hills, and he served the longest of any of the six.

"He was a role model for the assistant (professionals) who worked for him and for the whole (Colorado PGA) Section," said Clayton Cole, who served as an assistant under Smith from 1970-74 then succeeded him as the head professional at Cherry Hills when he retired at the end of 1990. "The way he handled himself, his morals ... he was the best role model you could have."

Cole remembers that when he was hired as an assistant pro, Smith told him something that Cole subsequently passed along to his own assistants.

"He said, 'Clayton, there are going to be some members you like better than others, but we're going to like all of our members,'" Cole recalled. "He knew how to take care of the customer."

Cole was one of at least 16 assistant professionals under Smith who went on to head professional positions.

Though Smith spent 28 years in his official capacity at Cherry Hills, he lived an eventful life before he arrived in Colorado.

He was born in Escanaba, Michigan, and raised in Gadsden, Alabama. He turned pro in 1943 and achieved his PGA status in 1948. He served in the U.S. Merchant Marine in 1945 and helped deliver supplies to troops in Naples, Italy.

After returning to the U.S., Smith did some double duty of sorts by working for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio in the morning and early afternoon, then giving lessons and serving as a professional at Seiberling Country Club in the afternoon and evening.

A year later, he was hired as the head professional at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Texas. During his 16 years there, he served as a president of the Central Texas PGA Section and helped lure the PGA Tour's Texas Open to Oak Hills in the early 1960s.

Smith was also an accomplished player. In fact, he once jointly held the PGA Tour record for consecutive birdies -- seven, a feat he accomplished at the 1955 Texas Open. That mark stood until Bob Goalby made eight in a row in the 1961 St. Petersburg Open.

Smith played in two U.S. Opens (1963 and '66) -- he competed alongside a Colorado amateur named Hale Irwin in '66 -- and two PGA Championships, advancing to the quarterfinals of match play in 1957.

Hyland Hills' Mazone Passes Away at 74: Also passing away this week -- on Tuesday -- was another prominent longtime Colorado PGA professional, Marv Mazone, who was a fixture at Hyland Hills Golf Course in Westminster. Mazone, born June 26, 1940, was 74 years old.

Mazone headed golf operations at Hyland Hills for 32 years -- 20 as head professional and a dozen as director of golf. He retired in 2009, and he received the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame's Lifetime Achievement Award that same year. In 2011, Mazone earned the Warren Smith Award from the Colorado PGA. Earlier in his career, he was named the Public Merchandiser of the Year by the CPGA in both 1988 and '89. Sixteen members of his staff went on to head professional positions.

Under Mazone's leadership, Hyland Hills hosted the 1990 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. 

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