Smith bringing game to the Delta|[06/13/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chase Smith can rattle off plenty of reasons why he chose Delta State as the place to continue his golf career: the coach, the campus, the golf course, and his future teammates.

But the first thing that comes to Smith’s mind is the private jet the Statesmen use to fly to tournaments. It’s a recruiting tool that is hard to ignore.

&#8220We don’t have to ride in vans,” said Smith, a May graduate from St. Aloysius who has won three Class 1A individual state championships and led the Flashes to this year’s team title.

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Delta State has qualified for regionals six of the past seven seasons, and that private jet is convenient considering the Statesmen’s schedule last season took them to tournaments from Missouri to Florida.

Smith, who also played basketball at St. Al, considered attending Mississippi College to play both sports, but settled on Delta State so he could just concentrate on golf.

A major benefit of playing one sport, Smith said, is the chance to hone his skills uninterrupted throughout the year. In high school, most of his time from October to March was spent on the hardwood.

&#8220Most serious golfers don’t really ever stop for that long, so it’s going to be good for me,” Smith said of the extra months of practice. &#8220I don’t think I’ve ever played golf year-round.”

St. Al golf coach Jim Taylor said Smith was one of the best players in Mississippi when he started playing for the Flashes in the seventh grade. Since then, Taylor said, Smith has matured physically and mentally.

&#8220He has outstanding talent,” Taylor said. &#8220I think he has all the tools, and he’s just going to get better with the more practice that he has.”

In a tournament on June 2 at Canton Country Club, Smith fired a 62. His father, Clear Creek Golf Course pro Kent Smith, said the score drew the attention of some Southeastern Conference coaches. But because of the limited number of scholarships available at the Division I level, Kent Smith said his son decided to stick with Delta State.

&#8220It’s kind of a numbers game, and it was best to go ahead and just take the bird in the hand,” Kent Smith said. &#8220You can’t wait forever.”

But Chase Smith is fine with his decision. He already knows a few of his college teammates, and he’s looking forward to playing for Sam Dunning, who is entering his 18th season as Delta State’s coach.

The private jet and the better competition should be nice, too.

&#8220I’m kind of anxious to see how it is and see how good everybody is,” Smith said. &#8220I’m looking forward to traveling to different courses.”