EYES ONLY FOR AU­GUSTA

New South Welsh­man Travis Smyth will be the in-form favourite when the Asia-Pa­cific Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship is con­tested at New Zealand’s Royal Welling­ton Golf Club later this month. And the young man knows only too well a win there gets him into the 2018 Ma

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS BREN­DAN JAMES & PAUL PREN­DER­GAST

Travis Smyth will be the in-form favourite when the Asia-Pa­cific Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship is con­tested at Royal Welling­ton Golf Club later this month.

For the best part of a decade, Travis Smyth has fol­lowed the same rit­ual as most Aus­tralian golf fans when it comes to watch­ing the Masters – set the alarm for an early rise and catch all the ac­tion from Au­gusta on the TV.

His ear­li­est rec­ol­lec­tions are of Tiger Woods “do­ing Tiger stu … hit­ting in­cred­i­ble shots and do­ing a lot of fi st pumps.”

“I think I started watch­ing the Masters when I was about 12 or 13 and I just re­mem­ber how beau­ti­ful the course looked, how the crowd was and it looked like an ex­cit­ing way to play golf,” Smyth said. “I’ve al­ways felt I’d like to be a part of that.

“In am­a­teur golf you don’t al­ways have a big crowd around but I love the thought of a big gallery go­ing crazy over good shots. That’s the way the game should be at the high­est level and I hope I can be a part of it.”

It’s a dream that is not beyond his reach. In fact, it’s just one win away.

The 22-year-old will be among the favourites to win the Asia-Pa­cific Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship to be played at New Zealand’s Royal Welling­ton Golf Club from Oc­to­ber 26 to 29. Aus­tralian golfers have had a great record in the nine-year his­tory of the event,

with West Aus­tralian Cur­tis Luck win­ning the ti­tle last year. Two years ear­lier, it was South Aus­tralian An­to­nio Mur­daca who claimed the crown with a re­sound­ing seven-stroke vic­tory.

Smyth is hop­ing to fol­low in their foot­steps with a vic­tory in Welling­ton, which will stamp his in­vite to the Masters at Au­gusta Na­tional next April.

Smyth joined his five fel­low Aus­tralians – Har­ri­son Endy­cott, Dy­lan Perry, Min Woo Lee, Shae Wools-Cobb and Char­lie Dann – on a re­con­nais­sance visit to Royal Welling­ton last month to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the golf course.

“We flew over and had a look at the course for a cou­ple of days,” Smyth said. “It was im­pres­sive.

“By the time the tour­na­ment starts we’ll have played more prac­tice rounds at Royal Welling­ton than any other coun­try, ex­cept the Ki­wis of course.” The trip across the Tas­man came less than a week af­ter Smyth dom­i­nated a field of pro­fes­sion­als to win the North­ern Ter­ri­tory PGA Cham­pi­onship by six shots. With coach John Ser­han pulling his bag, Smyth showed ma­tu­rity beyond his years in clos­ing out his first vic­tory in a pro­fes­sional event.

“It was awe­some,” Smyth said. “I know it’s a bit cliché but I was re­ally just fo­cus­ing on play­ing one shot at a time.

“I wasn’t look­ing at the leader­board or wor­ry­ing about what other peo­ple were do­ing, I just went back to think­ing what have I got to do now to hit the best pos­si­ble shot I can. I’d hit the shot, get to the next shot and go through the same thoughts again. I just did ex­actly the same thing over and over again.

“When you’re play­ing well it all seems so easy, I was feel­ing re­ally con­fi­dent in my game and I knew I was play­ing well so there was no need to think neg­a­tive. It just felt re­ally easy.” As Smyth was soak­ing up the me­dia and gallery at­ten­tion fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony, be­tween drain­ing wa­ter bot­tles in the af­ter­noon Dar­win heat, Ser­han de­tailed some of the ‘ex­cit­ing’ at­tributes his star pupil ex­udes in his ap­proach to the game.

I FEEL THOSE ELITE AM­A­TEUR EVENTS ARE AS HARD, IF NOT HARDER, THAN SOME OF THE PRO EVENTS I HAVE PLAYED. – TRAVIS SMYTH

Reach­ing the US Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship quar­ter fi­nals at Riviera Coun­try Club a fort­night ear­lier was tinged with mixed emo­tions – there was ex­cite­ment and a sense of val­i­da­tion for all the hard work, but also a level of dis­ap­point­ment in los­ing such a tense bat­tle at the fi­nal hole. “We had to talk through a lit­tle bit when he re­turned home,” Ser­han said.

Clearly, it didn’t take long for Smyth to bounce back from the loss to even­tual cham­pion Doc Red­man. In fact, the re­sult in Los An­ge­les went a long way to help­ing him win in Dar­win.

“I feel those elite am­a­teur events are as hard, if not harder, than some of the pro events I have played,” Smyth said. “Out of all of the pro events I have played I’ve looked at the win­ning score and thought if I had played I could have had that.

“I’ve been more shocked at win­ning scores in am­a­teur events than in pro events so far. Not tak­ing any­thing away from these guys, they’re great play­ers, but I feel like play­ing well at the US Am­a­teur def­i­nitely gave me a huge boost go­ing into a pro­fes­sional event.” Smyth was all calm and con­fi­dence from Day 1 at the NT PGA and by the time the

week­end rolled around, you never got the sense that any­thing other than a vic­tory was likely to even­tu­ate.

“The level of Travis’ game has been im­prov­ing over the last cou­ple of years but the US Am­a­teur was def­i­nitely a sig­nal that he was at an­other level,” Ser­han said.

“Lead­ing up to that, he played well in the UK at the Bri­tish Am­a­teur, then ran fourth in the Porter Cup and 28th in the Western Am­a­teur, which are huge events on the world am­a­teur sched­ule.

“The thing with Travis is, he chal­lenges me all the time to try to make him bet­ter. Even when he’s play­ing well, he chal­lenges me to make him bet­ter which ob­vi­ously is the per­fect men­tal­ity.

“Travis is re­ally for­tu­nate to be in­volved in the High Per­for­mance Pro­gram at Golf NSW, which Dean Kin­ney heads up, and he’s one of the play­ers who’s re­ally taken that op­por­tu­nity and re­ally run with it.

“He’s one that will leave no stone un­turned to make sure he gets the most out of all the sup­port. That’s re­ally ex­cit­ing for me. He’s a fine young man, he’s very down to earth, he works hard and I think we’re go­ing to see some re­ally nice things in the years to come.”

Re­sults over the next month will de­ter­mine Smyth’s im­me­di­ate play­ing fu­ture, whether he’ll be tee­ing it up at The Masters as an am­a­teur, or turn­ing pro­fes­sional with hope­fully a Euro­pean Tour card in his back pocket if he suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ates two stages of Qual­i­fy­ing School.

What’s as­sured is a PGA Tour of Aus­trala­sia ex­emp­tion from when he turns pro­fes­sional and the con­tin­u­ing sup­port of Ser­han, who has helped shape Smyth from the kid who couldn’t make the lo­cal pen­nant team a few years ago into an emerg­ing force in Aus­tralian golf.

THE THING WITH TRAVIS IS, HE CHAL­LENGES ME ALL THE TIME TO TRY TO MAKE HIM BET­TER. EVEN WHEN HE’S PLAY­ING WELL, HE CHAL­LENGES ME TO MAKE HIM BET­TER WHICH OB­VI­OUSLY IS THE PER­FECT MEN­TAL­ITY. – JOHN SER­HAN

Smyth, watched by coach John Ser­han, plays from the rough en route to vic­tory at the NT PGA.

Ser­han says his charge chal­lenges him to make him a bet­ter player.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.