Instead of helping duffers manage fairways, Garrett Smithson will now look to help people manage their home finances.
Smithson, golf professional at The Cedars at Dungeness since 2013, is shifting his career path from the links to join a local mortgage company this fall.
The career change is bittersweet for Smithson. Born and raised in Port Angeles, he started work for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe as a valet at 7 Cedars Casino in 1997, moved up to waiting tables and tending bar before joining the tribe-owned golf course staff, first as a pro shop attendants and then seven years ago as a professional.
“It was a really, really tough decision; 7 Cedars and the golf course have been really good to me,” he said, crediting General Manager/Director of Golf Bill Shea and Jerry Allen, chief executive officer for 7 Cedars Casino, for their leadership.
“Jerry Allen, Bill Shea, the casino, the tribe — they’ll always be my family,” Smithson said.
“It’s hard to put into words what (Garrett) has done for this place,” Shea said. “His customer service is off the charts. He treats every single person he meets like his best friend, and he has grown the game on the Olympic Peninsula and beyond exponentially.”
Shea said that some tournaments The Cedars has hosted over the past 20 years come back year after year based on how well they’re treated by staff, and “that has a lot to do with Garrett.”
Smithson’s final day at the course was Saturday, Oct. 10.
The Cedars didn’t have to look far for someone to fill Smithson’ role: Chad Wagner, a Sequim High graduate and head pro at The Cedars’ sister course Peninsula Golf Club in Port Angeles, will take over as head professional in January, Shea said.
“Not only is it seamless because he works for the (7 Cedars) resort already but outstanding professional, as much like Garrett as anyone can be,” Shea said.
Staff is in the process of recruiting to fill Wagner’s position at Peninsula Golf Club, Shea said.
“It’s a pretty easy choice; (Chad) is very well connected in the community,” Shea said. “He’ll do very well here.”
A deciding factor in making the change, Smithson said, was the chance to see much more of his school-aged children.
“I’ve never had a weekend off,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many soccer games I’ve had to miss.”
He joked that the change could back fire, that it might be “too much Garrett time” in his household.
“At the end of the day, it’s an opportunity to spend more time with my family,” Smithson said. “And, potentially make more money.”
Smithson said he was approached by a local mortgage company representative about making the change, and after he did some research on his own he broke the news to Shea, his boss.
In early October, several staffers — some of whom Smithson worked with for more than a decade — joined friends family and club members at a send-off party.
“I didn’t expect anything; they were awesome,” Smithson said.
The golf pro said he’s going to miss connections with the people, not just staffers but the course regulars and people he’s met over the years from out of town.
“I’d get to come into contact with on a daily basis, same guys Monday-Wednesday-Friday at the same (tee) times for fifteen years,” he said. “(I’ll miss) the people, the atmosphere. There’s not better place than the golf course.”
Instead of having to watch people tee off at the first hole from the pro shop, Smithson can look forward to hitting the links without being “on the job” when he returns for his first round of golf at The Cedars.
“That’s going to be a really weird feeling — a good one, but it’s going to be different,” he said.
For more about The Cedars at Dungeness, 1965 Woodcock Road, see www.golfcedars.com.