Taking his game to another level|[06/11/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For a freshman, making the move from high school to collegiate golf is a daunting step.

Former St. Aloysius golfer and three-time Class 1A medalist Chase Smith of Vicksburg was able to handle the transition.

Playing for coach Sam Dunning at Delta State, Smith led the Statesmen in four of their seven team tournaments this spring.

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His performances were enough to land him the team’s MVP for the spring session at the school’s annual athletic banquet. He was also named to the All-Gulf South Conference team.

“He was a welcomed surprise,” Dunning said. “He did really good for his first year. Looked a lot like a No. 1 player in the way he handled himself and managed his game. He was our spring MVP and in our 10 tournaments for the year, he was the low man five times.”

Smith’s best tournament came in February when he finished second at the Doyle Wallace Classic in Hot Springs, Ark. He shot a two-day total of 145, including a one-under 71 in the first round.

“It was in the middle of February but I was able to make four birdies and two eagles,” Smith said.

In the next tournament at Southeastern College, he was 47th. The next after that, fifth at the University of North Alabama Tournament on the Robert Trent Jones course in Muscle Shoals.

The Statesmen then went to a sea course at Tiger Point for the West Florida Tournament in Pensacola. Smith finished 26th.

“The wind picked up off the gulf and I made a triple bogey on an island green,” Smith said.

Kent Smith, Chase’s father and the pro at Clear Creek Golf Course in Bovina, said he was surprised by the hard conditions collegiate golfers face.

“Most of the time they are playing in a lot of wind. And it’s a cold wind. It’s just tough,” Kent Smith said. “Like right now, this is nearly perfect because there is little wind and the greens have softened.”

Smith’s final tournament of the spring was back in Hot Springs for the Gulf South Conference Championship. He placed 42nd with a three day total of 234.

“It was a pretty good year. I made All-Conference and a had a couple of good tournaments in the spring and fall,” Chase Smith said.

“The big difference between high school and college golf is that you have to pay more attention to who you are playing. It’s more serious and there is a lot more strategy involved. Plus, you are also playing on courses that you have never seen before. And, there are a lot of really good players out there.”

The GSC was again one of the top leagues in the country. West Florida won the NCAA Division II national championship and North Alabama finished second.

“I think with more competition, Chase will continue to get better,” Dunning said.

To that end, Smith entered the Mississippi State Amateur last weekend at Tunica National. He was tied for second after the first round with a 74. He shot 73 in round two but then slumped with a 76 in round three and then shot an 80 on Sunday in the final round. He finished 19th.

“The third day was the one that made me mad. I had opportunities for some birdies and didn’t make them. The last day I was just trying to make something happen,” Chase Smith said.

“That tournament is a real grind, because it’s four days and most amateurs are used to playing just two,” Kent Smith said.

Chase said he will likely play in four more tournaments this summer before going back to Cleveland in mid-August.

“I may play in the State Open at Windance and then the Greenwood Invitational and maybe the US Amateur qualifier at Reunion in July,” he said. His last tournament of the summer will be the Warren County Championship at Clear Creek on Aug. 2-3.