Brad Smith, “Smitty” to those who know the affable Head Professional at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club, has a big year ahead of him. The historic course will be hosting the 2017 CP Women’s Open. It comes on the tail end of major renovations on their golf course property. It would be daunting for some to deal with, but the native of the maritimes and St. Francis Xavier University grad seems to be taking it all in stride.
At the same time the 37-year-old has a family with two very young children at home that also need his attention. No matter, he remains focussed on the tasks at hand while keeping his wits about him. When you consider his path to where he is today, it all falls in line with how is life has unfolded to date.
FGM: Where did you grow up? Age? Family? Background?
Brad Smith: I grew up in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Born and raised. I have three half-bothers and two half-sisters. My father grew up playing hockey, basketball, and golf. He always had me active in sports but never pushed me into any of it. Golf was just a game I grew fond of once I began to play. One of my brothers plays golf as well, but other than that there’s little athletic background in my family.
FGM: What were your interests as a kid? Hobbies, sports?
Brad Smith: I played hockey in a “non-competitive” state. I’ve never really gotten involved in organized hockey. I was on school basketball teams until high school and then just took a liking to golf.
FGM: How did you first get involved in golf?
Brad Smith: I started directing my athletic focus to golf when I was 13. My dad never pushed me into the game. I caddied for him. I probably pulled his golf bag around from the age of seven or eight at Abercrombie (Golf & Country Club). That’s where I played all my junior golf; that’s where I learned the game.
We had what was called a merit program in school. If your grades were high enough in a certain subject you could forgo writing an exam and take part in an activity away from the school. One of the activities happened to be golf. I was twelve when I tried it. My dad put together a set of golf clubs for me. I had a fantastic time. It was challenging but it was something I could see myself improving at. The next year my parents bought me a junior membership and I spent my summer at the golf course.
FGM: What appealed to you about golf?
Brad Smith: I guess it was the individual component of the game. If you mess up it’s your fault. If you succeed, it’s your fault.
FGM: How did your game progress?
Brad Smith: By the age of fifteen I’d say I was down into a single digit handicap. By the age of 18/19 I got to scratch/plus one. I played locally at the club (tournaments) and in the Nova Scotia Junior, but with no real great success. I think I was 21 or 22 when I got more comfortable competitively.
(While attending St. Francis Xavier University (Business Management) from age 18-23 Smith would continue to spend his summers at Abercrombie G&CC, working as a starter.)
FGM: When did you consider being involved with golf as a career?
Brad Smith: I think I started thinking about it as a possible career around the age of 17. I had a lot of involvement, as a better golfer, with our younger junior kids at the club. I did a little light instruction, helped run junior day and things like that. The defining moment of my life, I guess, when I decided to become a golf pro, was when I was 17 years old. I was helping a ten-year-old, and I helped him hit the ball in the air for the first time. The look on his face sold me. I said to myself “I want to do that for people for the rest of my life.”
(With his degree earned, in Fall of 2003 Brad transitioned to Ottawa, seeking more opportunities and moving close to some family and friends. To get some practical golf experience he caught on at retailer Chuck Brown Golf. Eventually he was hired by pro Scott Mikkelsen to work in the back shop at Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club. He worked his way up and through the PGA program to become the Head Professional four years ago. “I think I’ve been the right guy, at the right time here,” he quips of his ascension at the club. “I was able to work in each aspect of the business here. I was very fortunate to work for some great guys – Tim Moore, David Perry, and Bob Flaro.”)
FGM: What is special about being the Head Professional at such a historic club?
Brad Smith: It’s probably the relationships I have developed with the members over the years. It feels like a big family here. That’s what I value most about the position. You think about the history of this club and the fact there have not been many head professionals. It is an honour to be in that role and come here every day.
FGM: What motivates you to be at your job each day?
Brad Smith: I enjoy seeing where the golf club is headed. We’re going in a real positive direction with a lot of things we are doing here and I think we are cementing ourselves as one of the best clubs in Canada. Each day we’re trying to be better.
FGM: What aspect of the golf industry do you like the most?
Brad Smith: I always like getting on the lesson tee. I like helping people get into the right equipment. I enjoy that one on one time that I get with the members in the club-fitting experience. I still enjoy the retail side of it. Whether that is helping the customer get the right shirt or play the right golf ball. We are a club that is about good service and I like that the members can rely on me for that.
FGM: What has been your best golfing moment?
Brad Smith: I set the non-competitive course record of 63 at Abercrombie about a week before I left Nova Scotia. It was the round of my life and I’ve come nowhere near it since.
FGM: What will be mean to you to host the 2017 CP Women’s Open at your Club?
Brad Smith: It’s an amazing honour. Obviously, we are very happy that Golf Canada wants to come back to our facility to host that event. When we last held it in 2008 it was a wonderful experience and the potential for the 2017 CP Women’s Open is unbelievable when you think about things like our involvement with Brooke (Henderson, an honorary member at the club) and the success she’s had. Again, it’s an honour to host the event and I’m sure our course will be in tip top shape.
FGM: What’s it meant to you to have tremendous support from home?
Brad Smith: The support that I get from my wife (Mireille) is unbelievable. She is an unbelievable mother to our kids. She is a fantastic wife who understands the challenges and pressures of the golf industry. I love my kids with all my heart. My daughter (Ellie) is two years old and my son (Zach) just turned 6 months. It’s a busy life right now but that’s okay. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
FGM: Finish the sentence. In 5 years Brad Smith will…
Brad Smith: I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I am just going to keep working hard; keep trying to be the best person I can; the best pro I can.