Golf lost a great friend recently with the passing of Grant Spaeth, who was one of TFTSV’s original Board Directors. He had strong ties to USGA, Stanford and public golf, including at Palo Alto Muni, which is now Baylands Golf Links.
Grant and I immediately clicked when I began as TFTSJ’s Executive Director in 2008. I think he felt sorry for me as a Cal Golden Bear! I will always remember his quick wit and grin as we would banter. I thought very highly of him and greatly appreciated his support and friendship.
Grant was instrumental in the early days of Rancho del Pueblo Golf Course and The First Tee of San Jose, our original name, as one of our Board Directors. USGA was very generous with funding for us in our early years. I’m certain that Grant’s affiliation as a past USGA President really helped. When we later expanded to Palo Alto Muni, Grant made sure that I understood the importance of changing our name to The First Tee of Silicon Valley as an umbrella name over all our program locations.
I received a call from Grant early one morning in 2009. “George, Please call me. I understand that Coach Willingham wants to get involved in TFTSJ, but you haven’t informed me.” I thought, “How on earth did I miss that? I’d certainly know if Coach Willingham had contacted me.” Nervously, I called Grant who then told me, “I will write a letter today. You will call Coach Willingham in three days.” When I called him I found out that he had just recently contacted our Program Manager, Molly, and was in the process of interviewing to become a Volunteer Coach, which he still is today. I enjoy this memory of Grant’s purposeful, direct approach to helping TFTSJ.
Forrest Richardson, the architect of Baylands Golf Links, recently asked me which hole is my favorite. “Oh, the ninth hole!,” I said without hesitation. I explained that I always think of Grant while walking up the ninth fairway having played a wonderful few holes there at twilight with him one time. The ninth hole also makes me think of one of my favorite authors and Stanford’s Wallace Stegner. As Grant and I walked and talked, I mentioned for some reason that I was reading Stegner’s “Crossing to Safety” to which Grant replied, “Oh, Wally! He was one of my dearest pals.” It was a great moment.
Grant walked into the Palo Alto Muni cafe for a meeting with me in late 2009/early 2010 with the voluminous USGA rules books under his wing. “Why are you of all people carrying those around?,” I asked. Grant quipped (with his quick wit and grin), “I’m studying to be a rules official at the upcoming 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach. Some son of a gun USGA President put a testing requirement in place when he was in charge!” Of course, he was speaking of himself. Too funny.
The banner photo (also below) includes Grant speaking at Rancho del Pueblo in 2001 where he presented a check to the Eagles at Rancho, the junior golf program that became TFTSJ in 2005, as well as Grant and me at the Grand Opening of Baylands Golf Links in 2018.
I am extremely grateful for his significant contributions to TFTSV.
President & CEO,
First Tee – Silicon Valley