Golf: Smith having 'crack' at qualifying

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.
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 tournaments.

"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 winnings.

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.