(From our February 2015 cover story)
YOU get the impression the name Cameron Smith will one day be synonymous with golfing success.
The 21-year-old professional is a rapidly rising star in the professional ranks with lofty ambitions and a determination to match.
One of his strengths is mental toughness and it seems nothing will hold him back.
The Brisbane native had a stellar rookie year winning more than $400,000 last year courtesy of seven top-10 results including a fifth place at the CIMB Classic – an Asian Tour event co-sanctioned with the US PGA Tour.
The Asian Tour member is hoping for much of the same with a win or two along the way.
Inside Golf caught up with Smith recently to find out what makes him tick.
You’ve been a pro for one year – what have you made of the journey so far?
It’s been good, but very different to being an amateur. There’s a lot of travelling and meeting and playing with different people.
What’s the difference between pro and amateur golf?
The competition is so much stronger and the travelling is challenging. (After finishing fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, Smith travelled 15,870 kilometres to Jackson, Mississippi to play in the Sanderson Farms Championship. It took him 27 hours to get there).
What’s the hardest thing about being a pro?
For me, it’s trying to be better organised because I am not very good at it yet, but I think I will get there.
How have you dealt with the challenges?
I have a good team around me so that helps. I have my coach Grant Field, manager Ian Davis, trainer Nick Randall and all the guys at Golf Australia have really helped me. It’s been nice to have them there. I don’t think I could have done it without them, really.
What has been the biggest change you’ve made since turning pro?
Probably my attitude to doing the hard work. I was a little laid-back. I didn’t treat golf as the most important thing, but now it definitely is because it’s my job.
What’s your schedule for 2015?
I have a few invites to play events on the US PGA Tour and I am hoping for a few more. Other than that, it’s the same as last year, playing the co-sanctioned tournaments between the Asian and European tours. I’ll also be playing a few Asian Tour events and hopefully I can come back and play the Australian events at the end of the year because I love playing them.
What tournament will you play on the US PGA Tour?
The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the Zurich Classic in New Orleans.
With whom do you enjoy playing golf?
My dad, my uncle and the guys back at Wantima Golf Club. I love playing golf with them when I’m home. On the pro tour, I enjoy playing with Jake Higginbottom, Nathan Holman and all the younger Australian guys on the Asian Tour. We know each other well and are good mates.
If you could invite three fellow golfers to lunch and share a round with, who would they be?
Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
What is the strength of your game and what areas are you trying to improve?
I’d like to think my shorter irons and my wedge game is a strength. You can always improve on putting, so I am trying to do more work on my putting. My driving and long-iron play will improve as my strength improves so I am trying to do that as well.
You turned pro at 20. Was that the right age for you?
It’s hard to admit, but I think I turned pro too late because you learn so much more when you are a professional. If I had my time over again I would definitely turn pro a bit earlier to learn and explore as much as I can by picking people’s brains. You definitely learn a lot more on the pro tour and you learn more about yourself as well when you are in a hotel room alone.
You played with champions Brian Lara, Natalie Cook and Guy Leech at the PGA pro-am. What did you learn from them?
A lot. It was an awesome day and I definitely had my head filled with valuable information.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Everyone tells me to work hard. As simple as it sounds, it’s probably the best advice.
Is it true you’ve set your sights on becoming world number one?
Yes, I have. If I ever get there, I will be happy.
What’s one thing that distracts you on a golf course?
Is winning the Australian Amateur your career highlight so far?
Yes, it’s up there.
Have you received advice from Australia’s experienced pros about what to expect on tour?
No one has really offered advice other than my coach (Grant Field).
What’s the best thing about being Cameron Smith the golfer?
I like to think I am an outgoing person and I am happy to have a chat with anyone.
Growing up, how important was sport in your household?
It was important. We were always at the golf course or the footy fields. Dad used to play indoor cricket and touch football so I have been around sport all my life.
How did you get started in golf?
I was three when dad took me down to Wantima golf course. Dad is a good golfer and plays off scratch or one.
How long did it take you to reach a single-figure handicap?
I was probably around 10.
Growing up, how were you able to compete against much older kids?
I had a handy short game so older kids’ length didn’t bother me that much.
How much of a mental game is golf?
Heaps. My dad has always told me some days are diamonds and some days are rubbish and that’s how it is with golf. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s my approach every day.
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
I think I dress okay, but I would say old-fashioned.
How strict are you with your diet?
I was quite bad, but I am getting better with it.
What is the most unusual training you’ve done?
Climbing up and down sand dunes in Melbourne. It was tough, but it was a good workout.
If you could swap places with someone for one day – who would it be?
What would surprise us about your golf game?
Sometimes I may hit a bad shot, but everyone does that.
Is there a rule of golf you dislike?
I have always thought you should drop out of a divot in the fairway.
Do you have any hobbies?
I like hanging out with friends and trying to build stuff. I am not very good at it, but I try to build things that need building. If you can’t buy it, I’ll build it.
How many aces have you had?
Two – one at Niagara Falls Country Club in America and the other was in Turkey.
What’s your favourite golf course?
Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh.