Smail fol­lows his dad’s trail

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport -­der­

Their style of play dif­fers, but their pro­fes­sional home may be the same.

Newly-crowned na­tional men’s am­a­teur golf cham­pion Char­lie Smail is eye­ing the same coun­try where fa­ther David has made a lu­cra­tive ca­reer, as the

20-year-old pon­ders his fu­ture. ‘‘In the end I’d like to do the same as what dad’s done and play in Ja­pan,’’ Smail said days af­ter his im­pres­sive ti­tle win at Wairakei.

The Waikato am­a­teur beat NZ rep­re­sen­ta­tive

Kerry Mount­cas­tle

5 and 4 in the

36-hole match­play fi­nal but while he has his sights on a pro­fes­sional ca­reer, he’s not in a hurry.

‘‘Maybe in the next few years,’’ said the long-hit­ter.

Smail se­nior has won over NZ$12 mil­lion in his ca­reer, chiefly on the Ja­pan Tour, with his strength be­ing his ac­cu­racy off the tee and with his irons.

Dad ad­mits that Char­lie out­hits him.

‘‘He’s good, he’s solid – he plays a dif­fer­ent game to me. He hits it longer, maybe with a lit­tle less con­trol than me some­times,’’ he smiled.

But at the NZ am­a­teur champs, with mother Sheree – a for­mer NZ am­a­teur star – cad­dy­ing, Char­lie al­tered his game to suit the con­di­tions.

‘‘We get to play Wairakei quite a bit and are usu­ally hit­ting driv­ers ev­ery­where but we talked a lit­tle about play­ing more con­ser­va­tively, keep­ing it in play and putting the pres­sure on the other guy in a match­play sit­u­a­tion,’’ David said.

‘‘It was so tricky – the con­di­tions were quite windy, real gusty, the wind was al­ways chang­ing di­rec­tion and we were just talk­ing about how dif­fi­cult that was,’’ Sheree added.

‘‘His short game was just amaz­ing, got up and down from ev­ery­where, putted un­real and his long game was good too. We were hardly ever look­ing for golf balls. Oc­ca­sion­ally we are, this week we weren’t.’’

Given his fam­ily, it seems no sur­prise that Char­lie has emerged as a top young golfer – but that didn’t seem likely early.

‘‘I never re­ally took much no­tice of golf un­til I was 10, 11 years old and then I still didn’t play for a few years,’’ Char­lie said. ‘‘I liked watch­ing dad play as a kid but never re­ally picked up a club my­self.

‘‘To start with, we weren’t keen at all re­ally for him to play golf,’’ Sheree said.

‘‘We used to have a place out at Raglan and he’d go and play nine holes when my mum and dad went for a wan­der around there with him. Even­tu­ally we played twi­lights at Wal­ton and it went from there.

‘‘Once he started get­ting the bug for it we went ‘rightyho, we have to start back­ing him all the way now’. Like any­one, he still has his mo­ments when he says he hates golf and wants to give up.’’

Coached by Reon Sayer, Char­lie will next con­test the na­tional interprovincial champs with Waikato and play a cou­ple of big am­a­teur tour­na­ments in Aus­tralia over sum­mer.

‘‘He’s cer­tainly done a lot more than I ever did at his age,’’ David said. ‘‘He’d like to rep­re­sent NZ, that may be the next thing on the agenda.’’

Af­ter a cou­ple of quiet years that has al­lowed him to watch and caddy for Char­lie more of­ten, David, 48, heads off to Ja­pan this week­end for tour school. ‘‘I want to play a full year next year if I can be­fore the Se­nior Tour comes around so I can ease into that.

‘‘Ja­pan has a good [Se­nior] tour – 18 events this year and pretty good prize­money so you can play a pretty full year. If it goes well there, maybe have a look at the US or Europe.’’

Or maybe keep play­ing in Ja­pan to help Char­lie find his pro feet.

Char­lie Smail

Char­lie Smail cel­e­brates his NZ am­a­teur men’s golf ti­tle win with fa­ther David Smail.

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