Franklin’s Justin Smith Named Golf Coach at University of Minnesota

| June 25, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. – University of Minnesota Director of Athletics Mark Coyle announced Monday that former Franklin resident Justin Smith, one of the most decorated players in the history of the Minnesota men’s golf program, has been named head coach of the Gophers.

(Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletics)

“Justin is the right person for the job,” said Coyle. “He has a relentless work ethic that dates back to his playing days when he was an All-American and national champion. I know he will be a tireless recruiter and will give everything he has to our students and men’s golf program. I’m excited for him to lead our team and know he will do a terrific job.”

Smith, who is the program’s ninth head coach, spent the past two seasons as the program’s associate head coach after being named assistant coach at his alma mater in September 2014.

“It is such an honor to be the head coach of our men’s golf program,” said Smith. “This program means so much to me dating back to the days I was a student-athlete in the early 2000s, as well as the past five years serving as the assistant coach and associate head coach.

“We look forward to creating an experience for our student-athletes that is the best in college golf. I want to thank Mark Coyle and our administration for the trust they have in me to lead this program to incredible heights yet to be seen. I’m so excited for the future of our program. Go Gophers!”

Since Smith’s addition to the staff, Minnesota has earned a top-three finish at the Big Ten Championships, four PING All-Region honorees, three NCAA Regional participants and a pair of All-Big Ten selections.

This past year was highlighted by sophomore Angus Flanagan tying for the Big Ten individual title and earning an individual spot in the NCAA Regional. On the season, Flanagan recorded a scoring average of 71.67 which led the team by nearly two strokes and ranked as the third-best in program history for one season. In addition to being named All-Region, he was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team and to the Big Ten All-Championship Team. His 65 in the first round of the Big Ten Championship set a conference meet program record.

Smith’s third year in 2016-17 saw senior Justin Doeden record a 71.79 stroke average, the fourth-best in program history. Doeden played in the NCAA Stanford Regional and earned PING All-Midwest Region honors. Freshman Thomas Longbella was one shot off the program’s 18-hole record with a 63 in a fall tournament, then tied Minnesota’s Big Ten Championships record with a 66 in the first round.

In the 2015-16 season, the Gophers claimed top-three finishes at two tournaments, and eight top-10 individual finishes by seven different players. Sophomore Rúnar Arnórsson claimed the individual title at the Barona Collegiate Cup, becoming the first Gopher golfer to win a tournament since the 2013-14 season. He opened the tournament with a 62, which broke a 17-year-old program record. Senior Jon DuToit finished 27th at the Big Ten Championships, marking his fourth year finishing in the top-30 at that event.

As a collegian with the Gophers (2000-04), Smith was a key figure in perhaps the most-storied time of the program. The Gophers advanced to the NCAA Finals three times (2001, 2002, 2003) and won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 2002 and 2003.

During the Spring of 2002, the Gophers were the talk of the collegiate golf world and Smith, a sophomore, was in the middle of it all. The Gophers rallied on the final day of the Big Ten Championships to take their first conference title in 30 years. The following week, Smith earned medalist honors at the NCAA West Regional and helped the Gophers advance to the NCAA Finals with a fourth-place showing.

At the NCAA Championships, Minnesota barely made the cut after 36 holes and moved to fourth place after three rounds with the only under-par round. The Gophers stormed in front late in the final round and Smith rolled in the clinching putt on the 18th hole to cap a final round 69 as Minnesota pulled off its first, and only, national title. The Gophers became the first northern team since 1979 to win the men’s golf national crown.

For his collegiate career, the Franklin, Pa., native was named to the All-America Third Team once and honorable mention twice. Smith also finished in the top 10 of three Big Ten Championships and earned All-Big Ten and All-Big Ten Championship Team honors in both 2003 and 2004, years in which he served as team captain. Smith posted the third-best career scoring average in program history upon graduation (73.16), playing in 143 rounds as a Gopher. His season scoring averages during his final three seasons all ranked in the top 11 all-time at that time.

Smith was inducted into the ‘M’ Club Hall of Fame in 2018, becoming just the ninth player in program history to get the Hall of Fame nod.

Following his collegiate career, Smith enjoyed success on the NGA and Tours. He won the NGA Tour’s 2005 Players Turf Classic, 2006 Touchstone Energy Open and 2007 Guatemala International Open. Smith’s top Tour finishes included second place in the 2009 Miccosukee Championship, ninth in the 2009 Christmas in October Presented by Kansas City Crusaders and 10th in the 2010 Chiquita Classic.

Smith and his wife, Trisha, have a daughter, Eleanor.

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