Nov 19, 2010

Sportsmanship starts at home for Junior Justin Smith

Article available in the Winter issue of the GAP Magazine.

By Tony Regina

  While reading the 2009 September/October issue of the Golf Association of Philadelphia Magazine online, Jim Smith, Jr. noticed a story that immediately grabbed his attention.

  He printed it, showed it to his son Justin and told him “This is exactly what you should aim for.”

The aforementioned story was a profile on Greg Jarmas of Philadelphia Publinks GA, the 2009 Junior Sportsman of the Year. Smith wanted Justin to emulate Jarmas’ exemplary golf course sportsmanship.

  Now, 12 months later, Justin is the Junior player other Golf Association of Philadelphia fathers want their sons and daughters to follow.

  “I am flattered to receive [the Junior Sportsman of the Year Award]. It was kind of a surprise. It’s a big honor. It’s really cool,” Justin, 17, said. “Obviously, you have to conduct yourself in good manner on and off the golf course to win an award like this.”

  Added Chris Roselle, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Tournament Director, “Justin could win this award every year. That’s the type of young man he is. The way he handles himself on and off the course is what makes the game of golf so special.”

  Justin adopts an even-keel approach when it comes to golf course conduct. He takes each round one shot at a time and refuses to let a sour moment spoil the day.

  “I like to keep myself calm out there,” Justin, of Jenkintown, Pa., said. “There are times when I will get upset after a bad shot, and if I get upset, I don’t like to show it. My mindset is kind of more positive. If you hit a shot, never bring it to the next shot. Accept the consequences.”

  Justin’s tranquil mentality carried him throughout a successful 2010 Golf Association of Philadelphia season. The Jenkintown High School senior finished tied for 10th in the Christman Cup at Lu Lu CC and tied for seventh in the Jock MacKenzie Memorial at Sandy Run CC. Justin also triumphed in the First Flight of the Junior Boys’ Championship at Whitford CC by defeating Eric Slawter of St. Davids GC, 5&4, in the final. And following that victory, he made it a point to acknowledge his opponent’s effort.

  “I think it’s really important,” Justin, a Huntingdon Valley CC member, said. “He deserved the credit. He got that far in the tournament. A lot of the people you meet playing golf are friends. Everyone deserves respect. My mindset is to respect everyone you play with.”

  Said Johanna Schoeller, the Huntingdon Valley CC Junior Chair, “Justin has conducted himself in an outstanding manner, exemplifying the many qualities that are important to the game of golf. Justin has shown that hard work, dedication and sportsmanship really pay off.”

  Naturally, Justin learned his golf values from his father Jim, the Director of Golf at Philadelphia Cricket Club.

  “My dad’s one of the biggest influences,” Justin said. “He’s very even-keeled. He knows one of the most important things in golf is your attitude.”

  His mother Kathy is also a behavioral influence.

  “My mom wants to see me conduct myself well,” Justin said. “She goes to the tournaments. I want to make her happy.”

  This season, Justin also competed outside the Junior circles. He auditioned for the Association’s Amateur Championship and Joseph H. Patterson Cup as well as the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s Open Championship. In each of those qualifiers, Justin played among fields featuring varied breeds of golfer, from seniors to middle-amateurs to golf professionals.

  “There is such a huge difference in attitude,” he said. “I played on the Philadelphia [Section PGA] Tour, and some guys would sulk and get all upset over a bad shot. When you’re out in these [qualifiers], guys just go to the next shot. They don’t overthink it.”

  Next year, Justin hopes to attend Villanova University and to play for its golf team, which currently features fellow GAP fixtures Robert Galbreath, Jr. of Huntingdon Valley CC; Jimmy Johnston of Merion GC and Michael Kania of Overbrook GC. An abundance of changes may come, but throughout all that life throws his way, Justin will stay true to his sportsmanship.

  “Always carry yourself well,” Justin said. “You can be a great player and a guy people don’t want to play with because of your attitude. They cancel each other out. I want to make other people remember me as a kid who was a good guy to play with.”

Tony Regina is the Assistant Director of Communications for the Golf Association of Philadelphia.

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