Scottsdale, AZ | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2004
Nearly anything can spark the creator
in Lee Schmidt—a cactus growing in his
Arizona yard, an abandoned quarry, or
even a 1939 Chevrolet.
“I’m constantly reworking things,”
says the Carmel, Indiana, native, who
hails from a family of Purdue University
graduates. “I move flower beds around
in my yard, or, when I golf, I imagine the
back edge of a hole’s bunker a couple
The inclination comes naturally,
Schmidt says, and traces its roots to high
school summers employed as a golf
course maintenance worker for the
Indianapolis Country Club. Proximity to
Indy—specifically to the Indy 500—also
fueled an enduring passion for
automobiles. And although it’s been
decades, Schmidt still remembers “the
one that got away.”
“When I was in college, my brother
and I saved money and were all set to
buy a Model A Roadster,” he recalls.
“We went to the auto auction, and
learned it had been sold the day before.”
His interest didn’t wane, though.
Schmidt recently restored a 1939
Chevrolet, and often frequents auto races
and antique car auctions. “I really like
the older styles, because you can
immediately identify them,” he says. The
1932 Ford, with its distinctive, over-sized
grille and headlights perched atop front
fenders, tops his list of all-time favorites.
Traveling the world also inspires
creativity, Schmidt believes. He and his
wife, Jean, and children Kyle and Kelly
lived in Hong Kong years ago when
Schmidt worked for Jack Nicklaus
Design, and he’s traveled to Asia at least
once a month for the past twelve years.
The journeys have taught lessons in
everything from bunkers and greens, to
people and plants.
“It’s not all about how we do things,”
he says, “and traveling has truly opened
my eyes to another side of this world.”
“I was very fortunate to have
studied under Dr. Daniel, a pioneer
in turf grass management.
Purdue University prepared me
well for a challenging career
and exciting life experiences.”