By Clair Goodwin Joplin Globe Columnist
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.
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