Charting his own course
Smith keeping busy on links this summer

COVINGTON - While summer is a time for most students to relax, Taylor Smith is hard at work on the golf course.

Smith's vacation started by being part of the winning team of the Georgia High School All-Star North-South golf tournament held at Sunset Country Club in Moultrie.

The Eastside standout scored an important point and a half for the North team which beat the South team 10-8.

He started the tournament beating Northwest Whitfield's Chris Gordon 1-up on the first day before coming back from behind to tie Tift County's Jordan Hall in the Ryder Cup-style match the next day.

"It was fun, both of mine were really tight matches. I like the Ryder Cup format, it was awesome. This was one of the first times I've played the match play format," Smith said. "It's different as stroke play. I had chances at birdie putts that I didn't try to make because I didn't want to do anything stupid and give him a hole."

Against Hall, who averaged a 73 for his senior year and is heading to Oglethrope University, Smith was down by two with eight holes to play.

After getting a hole back on the 12th, Smith won the 16th hole, and they tied the final two.

"You just try to do anything you can do to win a hole," Smith said. "By the end of the day, I was pretty excited to pull out a half. As long as he doesn't close you down early, you still have a chance."

From there, he competed against some of the best college amateurs in the Southeastern Amateur at the Country Club of Columbus.

In the 81-player field, Smith finished 67th, shooting 19 over in the four-day event.

While not being able to keep pace with the top players, of which only 10 shot below par, it was a valuable learning experience.

"It was a huge event, it was probably the biggest tournament I've ever played in," Smith said. "I didn't do so hot, but it was my first time playing in a big amateur tournament. It was all college kids and really good amateurs. I learned a lot from really good players as far as how they play and think and manage their game. That's a big part of it, especially when you get to a certain level, that's the only place you can really improve on."

Smith's next venture is to hopefully garner one of 14 spots for the 87th Georgia Amateur Championship at Idle Hour Club in Macon.

However, before playing at Idle Hour, he must first get past the qualifier at Jennings Mill.

"You have to play as well as you can and hopefully you score low enough," Smith said. "I qualified last year with a 73 at Jennings Mill, 74's went into a playoff to get in. You have to shoot pretty low to get in."

Other tournaments Smith plans on playing this year are the Spirit of America, Pomp Schaeffer Open, the Oglethrope Invitational and the U.S. Amateur qualifier.

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.