By Alistair Hogg A lot of people pay good money to travel the United States playing golf. Others simply find alternate means, like National Squad member Kristie Smith. On January 5, Smith embarks on a journey that will see her strut her stuff on the lush fairways of the US Amateur Tour. The 18-year-old West Australian will attend Oklahoma State College on a full golf scholarship after her form caught the eye of head coach Laura Matthews. “Laura e-mailed me constantly at the start of the year and I had no intent on going,” Smith said. “I wanted to stay here in Australia, play in all the amateur events but she just kept hassling me and hassling me before I finally met her at the Australian Stroke Play. We sat down and had a chat about the college and all of the facilities and everything looked so amazing. I ended up going over there in June and I got to live at the college.” Oklahoma State has won 10 NCAA Golf Championships and has a highly esteemed golf program led by Matthews, a former NCAA Championship winner herself with Georgia. The fairways of the United States are a far cry from Royal Perth, but Smith is looking forward to the change of scenery. One of the things she aims to get out of her sojourn is the opportunity to practice, practice, practice. “I&aposm not big on practice,” the 18-year-old said with a laugh. “I don t practice hard, so I m really looking forward to going to college and I can train and also work on my fitness as well. It&aposs like I ll have to wake up at six every morning and go to the gym whether I like it or not to get into a routine.” When you see her results for 2006, it&aposs difficult to believe that Smith isn&apost one for the practice fairway. She won the US Amateur qualification event, the US Oak Tree Junior Championships and the Duke University Championships. Success also came closer to home for the West Australian throughout 2006. It’s been a really really good year,” she said. “I made the national squad at the start of the year after the (Australian Amateur) stroke play and was then named in it again. It’s been awesome. Also, winning the Junior Tasman Cup and playing number one for Australia was probably one of the big highlights.” But Smith will need to prepare herself to face tougher competition as the standard and intensity of golf increases on the US Amateur Tour. “Oh, it s amazing over there!” she said. “I played three months over there earlier this year and the amount of good players they have is just unbelievable. I mean, look at 14 year old Kimberly Kim for example winning the US Amateur. They are amazing!” Golf Australia would like to wish Kristie the best of luck for her exciting opportunity abroad!
Author: Alistair Hogg