Sentosa, Singapore June 19: A big talent, Cameron Smith who was once touted as the future star when he first made his presence felt on the Asian Tour, is now a shining star.
Having the world’s elite players for company on the PGA TOUR where he has since notched two wins and made his maiden President’s Cup appearance last year, the world number 38 is now making big strides. Smith’s path to stardom began with a standout Asian Tour rookie season in 2014, and as they say, the rest is history.
Along with reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Jazz Janewattanond of Thailand, the 26-year-old Aussie will tee up at this week’s RBC Heritage on the PGA TOUR. But as they continue to scale the higher echelons of the sport in the United States today, the starting point of their golfing journey can be traced back to the coastal town of Hua Hin in Thailand.
As a 20-year-old then, Smith competed and ended his gruelling Asian Tour Qualifying School test by finishing tied-18th to earn his Tour card in 2014. The Australian then decided to seek his fortunes on the Asian Tour early as he had said: “it was ‘good to stay close to home where I’ll be able to see my coach and trainer regularly.”
Smith stumbled initially in his first start at the Solaire Open when he missed the cut after rounds of 75 and 75 but quickly flew under the radar in his next event when he snatched the third round lead at the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters. Although he eventually settled for a share of second place, that superlative performance caught the attention of many and also signalled the rise of the young Australian on the Asian Tour.
His stats in his rookie year on the Asian Tour were indeed staggering and showed he was primed for a host of wonderful things to come. Apart from a tied-61st result at the Queen’s Cup after his exploits in Jakarta, Smith, who took up the sport at three under the influence of his father, never finished outside the top-10 in his next six starts on the Tour.
That included a tied-fifth finish at the lucrative Asian Tour and PGA TOUR sanctioned CIMB Classic in Malaysia which gave the Australian his first big break into the United States that year.
“Playing on the Asian Tour did open up a few doors for me. I ended up having a good year, so it was nice,” said Smith.
He may not have clinched that breakthrough on the Asian Tour, but his results were enough to see him end his rookie season in fifth place on the Order of Merit in 2014 and placed him on the fast track to success. Playing against the region’s best players and even surpassing some of the known veterans on Tour was a timely confidence booster for the Aussie.
Armed with renewed confidence from his exploits on the Asian Tour, Smith continued to hit his stride and took his game to the United States. He showed no signs of nerves when he teed up for his first Major at the U.S. Open in 2015 and made all the right headlines with his tied-fourth finish at Chambers Bay in Washington D.C.
“I had a great experience at the US Open. It was a dream finish for me. Playing on the Asian Tour last year has helped a lot as I was able to get into the moment and just do my own thing out there,” said Smith.
That result also gave him a temporary special membership on the PGA TOUR, secured his place among the game’s elite and catapulted him into the top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.
Currently ranked 38th in the world, Smith now plies his trade regularly in the United States where he has also set up his home in Jacksonville, Florida. He has already started his 2020 season in the best possible way by winning his first event at the Sony Open in Hawaii. It is a PGA TOUR title he can finally call his own, having shared the team title with Jonas Blixt at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans in 2017.
For someone who once confessed he could be working at the bar if his professional career in golf did not take off, Smith has come a long way since he first stepped up to the tee as a soft-spoken 20-year-old at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2014.
And like many who have made their mark on the Asian Tour before going on to advance their career internationally, nostalgia always fills the air whenever he is back in Asia.
“I love coming over here. I played probably 18 months on the Asian Tour, so I love coming back to where it all began,” said Smith after another noteworthy tied-third finish at The CJ Cup in Korea last year.