Michael Smith follows his tee shot on the seventh hole
during the Otago team's practice round for the New Zealand
interprovincial championship at Balmacewen yesterday. Photo
by Gerard O'Brien.
For Michael Smith, it is time to putt for dough.
Smith, the Otago No 2 at this week's New Zealand
interprovincial championship, is heading for Melbourne later
this month to try to qualify as a professional on the
Australian PGA Tour.
It is a big move for Smith (34), who has been around the
amateur representative scene for many years.
"It is now or never, really. I knew this tournament was
coming here and I have played on this course for 20 years so
I was keen to do well here," he said.
"So I have been playing a lot of golf and think I'm playing
as well as I ever have. I have always had the intention of
having a crack and I'm not getting any younger.
"It is going to be tough, there is no doubt about that. But I
want to go over there and play some harder golf courses."
After Smith finishes this week at the Otago Golf Club - his
home course - his focus will switch to Melbourne, where the
first phase of the qualifying school will be played at the
Peninsula Golf Club on December 19-21.
He will have to finish in the top 40 at the first phase of
the school to go through to the final qualifying stage, again
at the Peninsula course, in early January.
He will have to make the top 60 at the last tournament to
qualify for the tour, although he said the top 40 would be
more comfortable and would lead to more invitations to
"If I do make it then one of the first tournaments I would
look to play is the PGA at The Hills in February."
Smith, who has two children, Carter (7) and Jonty (4),
qualified for the New Zealand Open last year as an amateur
and has been friends for many years with Otago professionals
Ban Gallie and Mahal Pearce.
The venture will cost him about $10,000. He is hoping to get
10 people to aid him through a sponsorship package in which,
for their investment, they would get returns from any
If Smith, popularly known as Moxy, does qualify, he said he
would not give up his day job as golf development manager at
Sport Otago, probably playing a maximum of seven professional
tournaments a year.