The Teacher of the Year Award bestows special recognition on a Colorado PGA Professional for excellence in golf instruction, along with overall performance. Congratulations Leighton Smith, PGA of Leighton Smith Golf, for being this year’s award recipient!

Since turning pro in 2011, Leighton knew he wanted to teach and help golfers reach their full potential. He has worked alongside golf legend Hank Haney teaching some of the best junior golfers in the world, but in 2017, Smith decided it was time to take a leap of faith and start his own business. “I’m truly trying to change what golf instruction looks like, I want to be different. I started The Tribe in 2017 because I saw the need for true coaching, versus just instruction. Being a coach allows me to be a guide in someone’s golf story.” Smith started “The Tribe” with the goal of having an accountability system built into his program. Leighton didn’t allow the pandemic to slow him down. Despite COVID19, The Tribe program grew over 200%. He’ll tell you, “The Tribe isn’t golf instruction, it’s a movement, and I’m trying to make it better week after week” and that’s exactly what he’s doing. “I want to be remembered for my impact.”

What does this award mean to you?

It means so much – for a few key reasons. Being self-employed and taking that leap of faith in 2017 when I started my own business, it’s validation, I’ve put my blood sweat and tears into this. Being a part of something awesome, being a part of other people’s stories – their golf games, making friends, being a part of other “speed dial.” Working hard for four years, I didn’t know if I had what it takes, but I’ve been able to build the relationships, and it’s humbling. It means that there’s success, and other people are a part of that. This isn’t a solo thing – it’s all the people who have believed in me and have given me the opportunity to be their coach.

What are the qualities that you possess that you believe supported you in winning this award?

I have to practice what I preach, and it’s about the process. For me and my business and my dreams, it’s a long runway, and it’s not about how quickly I can take this flight, it’s about your cornerstones: being accountable, holding others accountable, learning about other people’s “why.” I feel like being able to understand the real “why” as to why they’re calling me, if they’re making the investment, I want to sit down and understand their background. It’s a two-way street though: me as a coach, and them as a student. We have to hold each other accountable. I want this to be the best golf investment you ever make.

What are the tools that you use in your professional career that have helps you with your success?

Having a support system, my own personal Tribe. My wife and 2 boys, mentors, other coaches, PGA Professionals, entrepreneurs, friends who keep me grounded, and my faith. But staying grounded is also incredibly important, I am thankful for those who surround me and who support me.

As it relates to golf, what is the best piece of advice would you give to others?

What are you chasing? What is your pursuit of happiness? Being an entrepreneur, trying to take control of my finances, my family, it’s hard to navigate, so really determining what you’re chasing – finding my own why. Find your dream and work backwards from there, versus just grinding to grind aimlessly, without a purpose.

What’s your proudest moment of being a golf professional?

When we find success, when I get the text that someone did what they set out to achieve. It makes me proud of my tribe and the system. There’s adversity first, so when adversity is matched with success and their efforts pay off, it makes my effort worth it too. It can be a frustrating game, so when people achieve their goals, it makes me proud. This award makes me proud. The collective effort that this is, from my Tribe, my wife and family, it’s something I’ll cherish forever.