A golf star comes home
Ronald S. Montesano
If you check out her Wikipedia entry or the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) site, you’ll learn of her golfing exploits. If you eye her right hand, you’ll see a ring from the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Patty Jordan-Smith is without doubt the area’s most accomplished modern professional golfer. After four years at Eden High School as a four-sport athlete and another four at Wake Forest University as a scholarship golfer, Patty spent fifteen years on the LPGA tour, winning the 1988 Ocean State Open in Rhode Island and signing for a career-low of 67 at a number of venues. After the tour years, Jordan-Smith enlisted at the Golf Club in Yankee Trace in Ohio, intending to work with many of the Buckeye State’s finest golfers. And then she came home.
The First Tee, an international youth development program based on nine core values, needed Patty to help lead its initiative in Western New York. A growing program at Cazenovia Park was soon to be joined by a larger one at Harvest Hill Golf Center in Orchard Park and a third, at Concord Crest golf course near Springville.
So Jordan-Smith returned to WNY to spread the word of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment—the big nine. Without a home base (Harvest Hill was still in the construction phase), she moved from playground to playground, school to school, setting up her teaching stations and introducing youngsters to the First Tee, its values, and to the game of golf. “I’d made the decision to transition from a playing career to a teaching one. It was time. I had undergone foot surgery with less than exciting results and I now wanted to give something back,” Jordan-Smith says.
In fact, the golfer had been honored by the LPGA in 2000 with its Samaritan Award, in recognition of her charitable efforts on behalf of others. Jordan-Smith likes to paraphrase a biblical passage from Luke: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” “I’m blessed,” she says. “I enjoy working with people, helping them grow in confidence and skill in one area, then watching them transfer that to life. I’ve taught each of the last seven winters in the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program at Holiday Valley and would love to bring a similar program to golf.” (The Lounsbury ASP works with individuals with disabilities, providing instruction and equipment to introduce people to downhill skiing.)
“I’ve worked with Peter Fenn, a golf professional and amputee, to instruct other local amputees,” Jordan-Smith explains. “Through the First Tee, we have a connection with the Department of Defense and its Wounded Warrior program. We have ample indoor facilities at Harvest Hill and I would love to broaden our program into therapy and instruction for injured and disabled members of our community.”
In addition to her time at Harvest Hill, the warm-weather life of Jordan-Smith fills up quickly. She teaches two to three days each week at Brookfield Country Club and coaches girls’ golf in the Williamsville Central school district. “I am officially the coach for Williamsville North, but I help out each of the teams when they need me,” she says. Beyond WNY, she is a national trainer of coaches for the First Tee (one of the first thirty so recognized) and makes visits to other foundation sites to work with instructors. She also serves on the program’s golf curriculum committee. Oh, and Jordan-Smith annually plays 105 holes in a single day to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research and works through her church on various other initiatives.
In a wondrous book of golfing stories called Lazy Days at Lahinch, there is an anecdote titled “The Dame from Dooradoyle.” The featured character is Dily Donworth, a champion golfer who, somewhere around age twenty-five, accepts a higher calling and leaves Ireland for Africa to devote her remaining years in charitable service to those in need. It’s not much of a reach to see that, in Patty Jordan-Smith, we have our own Dily Donworth. Thankfully, she decided to stick around to offer her best to our community.
Ronald S. Montesano writes about local golf on his website, buffalogolfer.com.