We just learned today March 31, 2014 that Marshall passed away last Thanksgiving. It is appropriate that he left us on a day of Thanksgiving because there are very few people you meet who mean so much and who you are so thankful for knowing. Marshall was one of those people for our family. He taught our son manners, respect, and of course the great game of Golf. Skyler loved Marshall for many reasons but we also knew Marshall loved Skyler. After we left Arkansas where it all began and moved to Austin Skyler's dad would call Marshall from time to time to of course talk about golf and how Skyler was doing. There will be a void that can never be replaced. Skyler first met with Marshall when he was 10 years old. This year Skyler will turn 18. Sky's dad was calling to let Marshall know Sky had qualified for the Byron Nelson this year. We will forever envision Marshall standing at the Peoria Ridge Golf Course waving at Skyler and saying, "Isn't he great".
Rest well dear Marshall until we meet again. We will be looking for you.
All our Love, Jimmy, Diane, & Skyler Young
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November 30, 2013
Marshall Smith was one of golf's true characters
By Clair Goodwin
Marshall Smith had a simple philosophy by which he lived in golf as well as in life: Play the ball (or life) as you find it. Getting mad won't change anything.
He was one of golf's true characters. His understanding of the essentials of a good golf swing, his quick grasp of what a player is doing wrong and his ability to communicate what must be done for amateurs and pros to improve made him a treasure.
Smith died late Thursday night at Freeman Hospital West at the age of 87. His family and several friends were around him.
Describing Marshall Smith is like trying to describe a force of energy. He was always moving, always thinking about the golf swing and always teaching kids or relating rounds of golf played by his buddies, students and players on the PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour.
His experience with golf came after he was honorably discharged from service shortly after World War II and was befriended by Ky Laffoon, a 10-time winner on the fledgling pro tour in the 1930s and 1940s and considered a pre-eminent golf instructor.
Ky, whose parents operated a grocery store in Miami, Okla., and Marshall were avid hunters and often were found shooting game birds in the fields of Northeast Oklahoma. Smith gave Laffoon a hunting dog and Ky introduced Marshall to the intricacies of the golf swing.
Over the next five or six decades, Smith gave many hundreds of lessons to youngsters just trying to get started in the game and to pros who sought his advice. But Marshall had a hunger to find the best swing and gave it to anyone who would listen.
Later, as his fame as a teacher grew, he would charge for lessons. But always, he had the time and patience to help kids.
The death of Marshall Smith was devastating. He was my good, close friend. Through his good auspices I had the opportunity to meet such golf luminaries of Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, Walt Zembriski and Craig Stadler. He was friends with Hale Irwin and Bruce Lietzke.
Zembriski told me during dinner in Kansas City before a Senior Tour event years ago that “that man (pointing across the table toward Marshall) made me a millionaire.” I suspect that Rodriguez, who was the first big-name pro golfer to ask for Marshall's help, has similar sentiments about his mentor.
But the guy who put Marshall on the map was Mickey Mantle, the New York Yankees Hall of Famer. They had been friends in high school, although Smith went to Quapaw and “The Mick” went to Commerce. They played high school football against each other. Mantle was big, strong and fast; Marshall was small and quick.
”Mickey could run around you or run over you,” said Smith, smiling at the long-ago memory. “If he ran over you, you would hurt for a week.”
Mantle took lessons from Smith and became a low-handicapper. Smith got him his first set of golf clubs.
Smith never got rich with his lessons, for which he might charge as much as $100 for an hour from a guy who could afford it. But many of Marshall's “students,” young and old, paid little or nothing. He just enjoyed teaching the golf swing to anyone who would listen and learn.
Marshall's objective wasn't to line his pockets but rather to reveal the swing “secrets” that he had discovered. His goal was to get players to enjoy the game more.
I grieve that Marshall is gone. But I also grieve for those who never got to meet him, talk with him and learn from him.
Clair Goodwin receives correspondence at Joplin Globe, Box 7, Joplin, Mo., 64802, or at sports@joplin globe.com.
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