Minnesota adds alumnus to staff

Justin Smith golfed for the Gophers from 2001-04 and won a national title.

Betsy Helfand

A huge weight was lifted off head coach John Carlson’s shoulders this week as he officially filled a position on the team’s staff.

Nearly a month ago, former assistant coach Tyler Stith left Minnesota and accepted the position as head coach at the University of Iowa.

After receiving 25 to 30 applicants, Carlson selected Stith’s replacement, announcing the hiring of Gophers alumnus Justin Smith on Monday.

“It was always an aspiration for me to hopefully give back to the program that provided me with so much,” Smith said.

Carlson estimated he got about five applications from other alums but said Smith was clearly the right choice for the program.

Smith was a member of the 2002 national championship team, tying for fourth individually at the tournament.

“[Smith] knows what it takes to have a great team. It’s pretty exciting that somebody’s around who went through that because that’s the high point of our golf [program],” senior Tyler Lowenstein said. “It’s pretty cool that he was there … and that he knows what it takes to get there.”

Carlson said he wanted his assistant coach to have a University of Minnesota tie.

He was also looking for someone who would work well with the new technology in golf.

Smith joined the Gophers following a stint working at 2nd Swing as a club fitter.

“He really understands what makes a golf club work for each player. It just makes it easier for us if we have the right equipment,” Lowenstein said.

Carlson said Smith had helped team members during the fitting process throughout the past couple of years.

Though Smith knew some of the team before his hiring, the new coach will now have the opportunity to forge relationships with everyone on the team.

“The first day, [Smith] came up to all of us, and he told us that he really wants to understand each one of us individually, which is really nice,” Lowenstein said.

Smith’s first day of practice was Tuesday,  but he’s already been helping Carlson.

“He already made an impact in evaluating these guys,” Carlson said. “It’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes.”

Smith is jumping right into work, as the Gophers have already begun their season.

“There’s no tournament that I’ve ever played that’s been as exciting as what I’m feeling now,” Smith said. “It’s a different feeling being on this side of the desk as when I was on the other side — but it’s going to be as satisfying as any-thing.”

Now, Smith is getting to know the individual golfers and the decisions they make.

Smith also said he’s going to pick Carlson’s brain as the two work together to lead the team.

“I’m just looking forward to having a great partnership with him for a long, long time and winning a lot of titles,” Smith said.