AllSportsTucson Phoenix Correspondent Brittany Bowyer
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07
On the green in 1!
4 days until our first tournament! pic.twitter.com/PBpJsPFpDk
— Pima Men’s & Women’s Golf (@pima_golf) February 11, 2021
At just 21 years old, Pima Community College head golf coach Marcus Smith has quite the resume. A full-time student at the University of Arizona and a published author, Smith now adds another unique accomplishment he can highlight: He is the youngest person to ever be named the head coach of any college program, spanning across all sports and levels.
“I definitely think that title of being the youngest head coach, in the NJCAA, in whatever collegiate sports, whatever I’m the youngest at, I think it’s a big responsibility and I definitely take pride in that,” Smith said.
While Smith has always displayed the qualities needed to be a leader in life, his motivation stems from someone he met early on in his journey into the world of golf. Growing up in Phoenix, Smith played baseball all his life prior to attending Deer Valley High School, where he was very first introduced to the game by a friend’s older brother.
“I started pretty late when it comes to golf. Most kids start pretty young,” Smith said, while reflecting on his journey from the start.
“Nobody in the family played golf, it was just my friends’ brothers who played golf and we’d watch them and we’d think they we’re super cool golfing, so we wanted to golf. I was the only one who took it seriously and joined the team, and that’s where I found a love of golf, through my coach Allen Ferguson.
In fact, the first time Deer Valley golf coach Allen Ferguson met Smith, it was on the baseball diamond.
“I was the home plate umpire, and Marcus was in the on-deck circle waiting to bat. The batter at the plate hit a pop fly foul ball towards Marcus. With the catcher and 3rd baseman charging to make the play, Marcus caught the ball. I yelled at him for interfering with the play and threatened to toss him from the game. He just stood there grinning….. I liked him instantly,” Allen said.
His junior year, Smith finally took the leap and tried out for the golf team. Ferguson said Smith, though inexperienced, had strong fundamentals to build on and a great work ethic. Smith credits Ferguson with helping him discover his potential and nurturing his passion for the game.
“He taught me pretty much everything I know and he really showed me how to play the game, and that’s kind of where I found my passion and my love for the game,” Smith said.
Despite having a short yet successful high school career, Smith made the tough choice not to play in college. Smith was originally being recruited by a school in Alabama, but ultimately decided it was time to transition to something else.
“Due to some injuries and just me wanting to shift focus into school, I decided I wasn’t going to go, so I just went to the University of Arizona instead and didn’t play golf,” Smith said.
After deciding on the U of A, Smith packed his things and made the nearly 135-mile move down to Tucson to begin the next chapter of his life. While he wasn’t playing golf collegiately, his desire to help grow the game still remained. That’s why despite the distance, Smith was still an assistant for his old high school’s golf team the following season as a way to continue being involved.
“Marcus was always very calm in his approach to the players and taught to never give up and believe in yourself. The players all respected him,” Ferguson said.
In the fall of 2019, Smith stepped into an assistant basketball coaching role for Tucson High. As a basketball coach in the Southern Arizona region, he was slowly able to start building ties and networking. One of those opportunities connected him with the former head golf coach for Pima, who decided to bring him on to the staff in early 2020.
“I actually coached basketball at Tucson Magnet High School before I was the head golf coach at Pima. We had a game at McKale Center at U of A, and I met the head golf coach there (at Pima), and that’s where my relationship started with Pima. He knew my background, he knew what I was capable of as a coach, he knew what I was capable of as a golfer and he offered me an assistant coaching job at Pima on the men’s side,” Smith said.
Not long after his arrival, the PCC Athletic Director Jim Monaco announced the golf program needed a change, and he felt Smith embodied exactly what he was searching for in the next head coach. At the time, he was still only 20-years-old, achieving a milestone never previously been reached.
“I was about two months into that position and they relieved him of his duties, but the college really enjoyed what I was doing and my vision, so Athletic Director Jim Monaco offered me the interim head coaching job for both the men’s and the women’s,” Smith said.
Eager and excited, Smith immediately jumped on the opportunity and was named as the program’s interim head coach in May 2020 before being named the official head coach in October.
“Marcus has a very good work ethic for a young man. His ability to get things done as well as work through issues made him a very reasonable candidate even at his young age,” Monaco said.
Just as Smith was given the opportunity to show what he’s able to do, he’s excited to be able to pass it forward by providing opportunities to student-athletes. Smith has hit the recruiting trail hard, bringing in some of the best golfers in the area. During his first season as head coach, he signed some of the top players in Southern Arizona, including two-time Southern Arizona Player of the Year Daniel Henely and Tucson High standout Angelica Martinez.
“We at Pima take a lot of pride in the fact that we are the only Junior College in Tucson, so initially my goal is to provide opportunities to golfers in Tucson. Obviously, I’m recruiting outside of Tucson… but initially we look for kids that wouldn’t necessarily get that opportunity because they’re kind of tucked away in Tucson,” Smith said.
“I believe we will put a very competitive group of athletes on the course. Marcus is a very good recruiter as well as a manager of his time,” Monaco said.
Smith and his golfers are working hard at honing in on the little things as they prepare to start their season in February, knowing they’ll have a lot to prove.
“I think other head coaches, when they hear my age, they’re going to not take us too serious, but I definitely think that’s going to change the second they see us on the course,” Smith said.
While Smith thinks that people may doubt him because of his age, Monaco said he had no concerns of it being a real issue.
“I don’t believe that people will look down on him. He holds himself very professional as well as his presence within the circle of coaches. Not many people ask how old you are when you are recruiting their children especially when you give them no reason to ask,” Monaco said.
Smith believes that because of his age, he and his players are able to relate to each other more, which in turn strengthens their bond. He also feels like it helps energize the athletes in a way that others might not be able to. Smith says because he’s in school himself, they’re all going through the same thing, and it helps with holding each other accountable.
When Smith has some downtime from his studies and coaching, he likes to combine his two passions into one: writing about golf. Currently majoring in English, Smith intends to continue working towards a PhD after graduating. Smith has already written a book, Dream Big, Live Larger, just one of many milestones for him as his career begins to unfold. In fact, Smith recently announced plans for a second book on social media.
Second book…👀 coming in 2021.
— Marcus Smith (@smith11marcus) January 24, 2021
Both men and women’s Aztec golf teams tee off for their first official match with Smith as the head coach on February 15 at Dobson Ranch Golf Course in Mesa beginning at 10 a.m. for men and 12:30 p.m. for women. To keep up to date with all the Aztec Golf Program, you can follow them on Twitter or Instagram.
Congrats to Aztecs men's @pima_golf 2021 recruit Daniel Henely @HenelyDaniel on signing his LOI. He is a 2-time Southern Arizona Player of the Year and 2-time 1st Team All Southern Arizona Golf All-Star by @AllSportsTucson Photo by @AndyMorales8 #PimaGolfhttps://t.co/OTqWr5IEcC pic.twitter.com/YN7VLGxMdQ
— PimaAthletics (@PimaAthletics) December 3, 2020