EVERETT - Tracey Smith of Bedford County recently won the club championship at Down River with an even par score.
While it was the first time in three years that Smith has captured the club's top title, the win lifted Smith's grand total of club championship titles to an amazing 17.
Smith, 47, grew up only a few miles from the Down River course. As a young boy, he played several sports - excelling at baseball and wrestling.
On a whim, however, the young Smith pedaled his bicycle to the nearby golf course one hot summer day.
Only 13 years old, he found the pro shop and introduced himself to club professional Dick Busky. He was there to inquire about the prospects of employment.
Busky admired the young man's moxie and hired Smith to pick the range at the club's practice facility.
After a few weeks, Busky gave the young man a pitching wedge. Smith would use the club to hit range balls to a central location. This made his job much easier while also giving him a chance to learn the game.
Smith spent his summer working at the course, learning nearly everything about the game. Even though months earlier he knew very little about golf, the end of summer found a young man hooked on it.
Over the next few years, his golf game developed rapidly. As a sophomore at Everett High School, Smith won the District 5 championship and finished 26th in the PIAA tournament.
Rick Grubb, club pro at the Bedford Elks, was an assistant pro at the Everett course (known then as River's Bend Golf Club) in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"Rick was very helpful to me when I was beginning to play," Smith said. "I learned the basics from him - how to groove a swing and keep things simple."
After graduating high school, Smith spent a few years working out of the area and playing very little golf.
Upon his return, Smith won his first club championship at River's Bend in 1983. At the time, the club was struggling to operate and fell into some disrepair.
In 1986, current owner Carl Michael purchased the property. The course, renamed "Down River," began to revitalize.
Smith won the club's championship in 1987 and again in 1990. He soon was Down River's dominant player; beginning in 1993, he won 11 times in 12 years.
Through the 1980s and '90s, Smith cemented his position as one of the best amateur golfers in central Pennsylvania.
In addition to club championships he was accumulating, Smith partnered with good friend Dave Uhland to win Down River's two-man invitational three times.
Smith also partnered with Uhland to win the Iron Masters Classic in 2000.
"Tracey is a great partner to have," Uhland said. "He has no real weakness in his game."
Cory Reighard, who works for the Golf Association of Philadelphia, returns home during the summer months to compete both with and against Smith.
"Growing up, Tracey was the golfer you always measured yourself against. He was the barometer," Reighard said. "Tracey is just a great competitor. When he's on, his iron shots are like lasers that head right at the pin. He's a great putter, too."
In addition to his golfing skills, one trait that everyone notices about Smith is the way he conducts himself on the course.
"Tracey is a real gentleman," Reighard said. "He never roots against a competitor, and he always has an optimistic confidence about himself."
Among his numerous golfing accomplishments, Smith also owns the course record at Down River. In 2003, he birdied the last five holes during the first round of that year's club championship to shoot a 62.
A few years later, he set the 36-hole mark by shooting rounds of 65 and 64 for the unheard of total of 15-under-par 129.
One of his proudest moments, though, came in 2004 when he won the annual Central Counties individual title played that year at Sinking Valley Country Club.
Smith prevailed over a strong field of the area's best golfers - finishing just ahead of Leonard DelBaggio and Artie Fink, Jr.
Smith also partnered with Iron Masters' Wally Clapper last year to win the Mount Union two-ball.
This year, only two weeks ago, Smith again competed in Down River's annual club championship. Thunderstorms shortened the tournament to 27 holes and Smith finished regulation play in a tie with 17-year old Brady Smith, who happens to be his nephew.
Tracey Smith won on the first playoff hole, capturing his 17th title at Down River.
"This one was kind of bittersweet, though, because of beating my nephew," Smith said.
The two embraced at the end of play as the elder Smith, who will be 48 next month, gave his young counterpart some words of encouragement.
He said, "You'll have plenty of time to win your share."