Golf is not just a fun sport for Doug Smith, but a decades-long mission.
His advocacy of the game hit a new high this year when he was picked to serve as the 2017 tournament chairman for the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. Smith, of Spartanburg, was selected for the post by the Heritage Classic Foundation in recognition of his work toward the foundation’s mission, which is “to enhance quality of life and economic vitality of South Carolina through signature golf events.”
As tournament chairman, Smith presides over the PGA Tour event’s opening and closing ceremonies. He also hopes to spread the word that the tournament is not just about watching golf, but helping improve South Carolina through charitable giving. The Heritage Classic Foundation, which runs the tournament, has donated millions of dollars in proceeds from ticket sales to various nonprofit groups.
“Our focus is to really try to educate people that the
more they support the tournament, the more we’re able to support their local charities,” he says.
Smith’s love of golf began as a youth competing in junior tournaments and continued as an undergrad at Wofford College. As an adult, his passion for the sport expanded to growing the state’s youth programs. In 1995, he founded the Bobby Chapman Junior Invitational Tournament, which is ranked by Golfweek as a top 10 national tournament. The event attracts 80 or so of some of the top junior players in the country each year to the Country Club of Spartanburg. PGA Tour pros Bubba Watson and Lucas Glover are among the tournament’s distinguished alumni.
Smith believes that growing the state’s junior golf programs is crucial to help save a game that has been losing youth to other sports.
“A lot of parents, frankly, don’t have the time to play golf and aren’t taking their kids out to play golf,” he says. “So we have to give them every reason to want their 4-, 5-, 6-, 7- or 8-year-old youngster to come out and participate.”
When Smith, 58, is not promoting junior golf, he practices law in Spartanburg as a partner at Johnson, Smith, Hibbard & Wildman Law Firm. He served Spartanburg in the S.C. House of Representatives for 16 years, eight as speaker pro tem. He has also served as president of the S.C. Golf Association. He and his wife, Alison Evans Smith, have two children in college.
In 2011, Smith was tapped as a trustee for the Heritage Classic Foundation.
“His connections and reputation across South Carolina are second to none,” said tournament director Steve Wilmot, who praised Smith’s selection as chairman. “It’s an honor for the RBC Heritage to have a stand-up professional, colleague and friend like Doug to represent and support our tournament this year.”
Smith says he hopes to do all he can to help further the foundation’s mission.
“I couldn’t be part of a better charity than the Heritage Classic Foundation,” he says, “because from its inception, the people who have been involved in that tournament are people who dream big.”
“And that’s what we’ll keep doing — dreaming big.”