Date: March 02, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: We chat to Kristie Smith

19-year old sensation Kristie Smith recently had the month of her life, finishing as leading amateur at the LG/Bing Lee NSW Open, MFS Women&aposs Australian Open and the ANZ Ladies Masters. At one stage, Smith even led her national championship and it was a moment to savour for the West Australian who harbours dreams of becoming the best player in the world. “It felt pretty special!” she said. “Friends of ours took hundreds of photos just of the leader board. Those shots will definitely be keepers in years to come. It&aposs always been a dream to perform so well at such a young age and to do it the week of the Open just made it even more special. “I definitely made sure I looked at all the leader boards not just once but a few times. I almost had to pinch myself I couldn&apost believe I was at the top.” Seeing the name &aposSmith&apos atop leaderboards may become more commonplace if Kristie carries her sterling amateur form over from amateur to professional ranks when she decides the time is right. Late in 2007, she embarked on a mission to Florida in late December to try her hand at LPGA Qualifying School. A final score of eight-over meant Kristie missed LPGA conditional status by just three shots which was a super effort in itself. “It was an amazing experience for me. It was always going to be positive whether I made it or not,” Smith said. “After not making it into college, I decided to give the LPGA a crack and see how I matched it against the big names. If I made it through then I would have turned pro and my career would have been on its way. If I didn&apost make it, then I still had all the support from Golf Australia and the AIS plus the experience of tour school behind me.” Kristie&aposs pragmatic outlook and decision making skills are exemplary for a player who is not yet out of her teens. A lot of this might be put down to her father Wayne Smith who&aposs professional experience, golf and business knowledge has given Kristie the best possible foundation upon which to build her golfing career. Smith senior caddied for Kristie at the recent MFS Women&aposs Australian Open, but it was far more than club selection advice and bag-carrying duties that her father could offer. “It was amazing to be able to share that week with Dad,” Kristie said. “We&aposve always talked about how cool it would be to be lead the Australian Open or pretend I am hitting putts in practice to win the Australian Open. It was very special to actually be together when it happened. “We have an unbelievable father-daughter relationship on and off the course. No one knows me better then my parents so the advice Dad was giving to me on course was pretty helpful! “He knows my swing and he knows the way I handle situations. He also knew the course pretty well too and I would never have got to the level I&aposm at without Dad.” Prior to the MFS Women&aposs Australian Open, Smith set herself two goals. They were to 1) improve on last year&aposs result (T25) and 2) to finish inside the Top 20. To her delight, Smith achieved both of these whilst simultaneously capturing the interest of golf fans Australia-wide with her bolt to the top of the leaderboard. “Leading the Australian Open is going to put pressure on any player. I&aposm pretty sure I&aposve never felt as much pressure as that before in my golfing career. “But to be the best in the world you have to thrive off the pressure. Yes, I was nervous throughout the first few holes but if you&aposre not nervous, you&aposre not normal and you shouldn&apost be playing the game.” Because of her efforts at Kingston Heath, her goals changed somewhat for the following week. “I feel like the technical side to my game and the mental side have taken a huge step forward after the Open, so the expectations rose a little for the Masters. It&aposs always hard to control your emotions and expectations – especially being a 19-year old female! “I was actually really sick the week of the Masters and have only just recovered. I caught the flu in Melbourne and by the time Round One came around, I could hardly move let alone play golf. “I was very lucky the first round was cancelled and I could have an extra day of rest in bed which was much needed. Nothing would have stopped me from playing with Karrie (Webb) and Amy (Yang) though. I would of had to be dying to stop me from playing with those two high quality players!” So after a successful few weeks in Melbourne and the Gold Coast, what next for Kristie Smith? “Over the next few months I will be traveling around Australia, playing all the main national events. I will also be working when I can to make a little bit of cash and then hopefully head back to the US mid June to play some big events over there.” All of this will be done with one little tournament in the back of her mind; the 2008 World Amateur Teams Championship. Adelaide plays host to this global event in October when the best young players from right around the world descend on Australia to pit themselves against the best. Many current professionals have previously represented their nations including Tiger Woods, Aaron Baddeley, Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam, so it&aposs no wonder that every player in the country wants to be picked to wear the green and gold. “Being selected would pretty much top off my amateur career,” Smith said. “It&aposs been a huge goal of mine to make the Espirito Santo Trophy team ever since I narrowly missed out in 2006. To have it here at home in Australia this year is very special. I&aposve set a goal to win the individual honors and of course help take Australia to victory!” If selected, representing her country in Adelaide might be one of Kristie&aposs final acts on the golf course as an amateur. All going well, Smith will turn professional later in the year after a successful three-year tenure in Golf Australia&aposs National Squad. “The support I have received from the National Squad has just been unbelievable in helping me develop – especially in the last year. Golf Australia has been critical in the way my game has developed and the opportunities they have given me. “I met my coach (Ian Triggs), who is now also a great friend through the squad and have been given so many opportunities to travel, not just around Australia but around the world. “I&aposve met so many wonderful people who have offered a helping hand and if I ever need someone to talk too and I&aposve now got so many networks I never had before. I wouldn&apost be where I am today with out Golf Australia & the AIS.” Kristie is just one example of how the National Squad and the AIS are equipping our elite young amateur to become stars and everyone at Golf Australia would like to congratulate her on her achievements of the past month and wish her well for the year and her career ahead.