LEESBURG, Va. -- Steve Schneiter and Jeff Smith, a PGA Professional twosome living 1,128 miles apart, found they shared more in common Thursday than just sitting in the same clubhouse through a rain-suspended first round of the 25th Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship.
The two are among a 264-player field in the national championship, which was hit by a 7½-hour rain delay due a stubborn weather pattern that failed to move through northern Virginia. Rain delays often bring out the best storytellers, however, the golf journeys of Schneiter and Smith are not fiction. The two PGA Professionals reflect families with passion to grow the game of golf in the United States.
Schneiter, the 1995 PGA Professional National Champion, turned 50 on Wednesday to make his debut in the Championship. He also is a PGA assistant professional at the family-owned Schneiter’s Pebblebrook Links in Sandy, Utah. Schneiter is the grandson of the late George Schneiter Sr., a pioneer in public golf in Utah, a course developer and who served as PGA Tournament Manager for the former Tournament Players Division, a forerunner of the PGA Tour.
George Schneiter and his wife, Bernice, were killed in 1964 in an automobile accident with a drunken driver. The couple was on their way to inspect the family’s latest golf course creation in Billings, Mont.
“From my grandpa on down through our family, we all have believed in growing the game,” said Schneiter. “If grandpa was alive today, he would be very happy to see a tournament like this for players 50-and-older, and would want to play himself.”
Smith, 54, a PGA director of golf at Harvest Point Golf Course in Oskaloosa, Iowa, is a former PGA District 8 Director (2008-11). He is the great grandson of William Smith of Ottumwa, Iowa, whose passion for golf guided a four-generation family lineage combining golf course superintendents and PGA Professionals.
The Smith family later settled in Oskaloosa, where Jeff’s grandfather, Ted Smith Sr., guided the progress of the city-owned Edmundson Golf Course, while his wife, Beatrice, worked daily in the golf shop. The family kitchen was just a few feet from the golf shop and separated by the only public telephone in the facility. Jeff’s wife, Lori, remembers that after she married that a door be put up to separate dining privacy from those using the phone.
“Our family has a combined 400 years in the golf industry,” said Smith, who became the first PGA Professional in the family and was inducted this year into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame. “The Edmundson clubhouse was our family’s home, and we thought it was a great place to grow up.”
Diving deeper into the Schneiter and Smith family trees, George Schneiter Sr. and William Smith began their respective golf industry careers in the 1920s. Schneiter, whose father emigrated from Switzerland, was born in Preston, Idaho, before moving with the family to Ogden, Utah.
The family home was across the street from Ogden Country Club, where George began caddying and learned the game. He turned professional at age 16 and went on to compete in multiple major championships. He reached the semifinals of the 1944 PGA Championship during the former match-play era. Schneiter lost 2 and 1 to eventual Champion Bob Hamilton.
Steve Schneiter’s late father, George Jr., was owner of Schneiter's Pebblebrook. He competed in the 1967 PGA Championship at Columbine Country Club, near Denver. Steve's brothers, Gary, and John, are PGA Professionals. Gary is head professional at Pebblebrook and John is head professional at Schneiter’s Bluff in West Point, Utah. There are four other cousins of Schneiter on the PGA membership roster.
George Schneiter Sr. helped in the formation of the Rocky Mountain PGA Section, and his son, George Jr., built a pair of public golf courses.
“My grandpa and my dad were all about playing the game as much as possible, and giving everyone the chance to enjoy the game no matter where they were from,” said Schneiter. “They each taught the game and helped give tips as much as possible to everyone they met. Growing the game, keeping people in the game is what we all are trying to do now to keep the game moving forward.”
Jeff Smith made an impact on the national stage when he qualified for the USGA Junior Amateur and advanced all the way to the quarterfinals. He won the individual high school state championship in 1976 and ’77 and was inducted into the Iowa High School Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012.
He played collegiately at Memphis State University where he qualified for the NCAA Championship as a freshman. During the summers he returned to Iowa and won three more IGA-sanctioned point events, finishing as low amateur at the 1977 and ’78 Waterloo Open and winning the 1981 Iowa Masters.
After college, Jeff turned professional and was elected to PGA membership in 1987. He served as head professional at Edmundson Golf Course from 1984 to 1999. In 1999, along with Lori, brother Mike and father Ted, the family opened Harvest Point Golf Course in Oskaloosa. Jeff was the architect and builder of the 9-hole track which he continues to own and operate. In 2012 he took over the management of Edmundson GC as well.
Jeff’s brother, Jerry, 49 competed on the PGA Tour and Asian Tour and is attempting to make a bid for the Champions Tour next year. Youngest brother Mike is a golf course superintendent.
Jeff served on the Iowa PGA Board of Directors for 14 years, and was Section president from 2003-05. During his PGA Board term, he represented District 8 (Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska). In 2006, Smith was named the Iowa PGA Golf Professional of the Year.
He has logged countless hours instructing junior golfers and has been an ardent supporter of all PGA Player Development initiatives.
“The PGA of America is on the right track to advance junior golf through the PGA Junior League,” said Smith. “The challenge that all of us in golf face is the heavy competition for family time. Golf cannot be a challenge; it must be a fun and inviting pastime.”