BigO Tyres


Golden Rule

Golf February 13, 2012 johnwooton 0

EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature ran in our May 24 issue. On June 6, Smotherman closed his prep career by firing a 4-under par 67...

EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature ran in our May 24 issue. On June 6, Smotherman closed his prep career by firing a 4-under par 67 at San Gabriel Golf Club “” good enough to take home individual CIF state champion honors. View our state championship coverage here.


By JIM McCUE | SportStars


Golfers are almost always measured by how well they perform on the game’s biggest stages. 

So, it is no secret that high school golfers ultimately earn their reputation based on how they perform at their section’s tournament of champions, regional finals, and the CIF State Tournament.

Del Oro senior Austin Smotherman is already considered among the best (if not THE best) golfer in the Sac Joaquin Section, but he has made sure that he cements his legacy in high school golf by rising to the challenge of the biggest events.

“I want to compete with the best of the best,” Smotherman said. “The (Sierra Foothill League) is the strongest league, the Section Masters Tournament brings together all of the best players in the (SJS), and the NorCal Tournament raises the bar even more. But, I want that. I want to prove myself against the very best.”

The ultimate goal for Smotherman is the CIF State Championships being held on June 6 at San Gabriel Country Club in Southern California. The SMU-bound golfer has little room to improve on last year’s results in the final three major tournaments, but he is off to a good start.

Smotherman set an SJS record with a 7-under 65 at the Masters Tournament on May 14 at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton to better his second-place finish from 2011. At the Northern California final, Smotherman again qualified for the State Tournament, finishing in a tie for eighth place with a 1-under 71 at Butte Creek Country Club in Chico on Monday. He was nowhere close to being the lone SJS qualifier “” Granite Bay’s entire team advanced with a third-place finish, Armijo’s Aaron Beverly won overall medalist with a playoff victory following a 4-under 68, and then Del Oro’s Justin Rankin, Ponderosa’s Corey Pereira and Christian Brothers’ Andrej Blevins all qualified.

On the grandest stage in 2011, Smotherman shot a 1-under 71 to claim fourth place at the State Tournament played at Poppy Hills in Monterey. With his college plans already decided, he wants to put one final stamp on his high school career before hitting the junior amateur circuit and leaving for Texas to join one of the top collegiate golf programs in the country.

Having experienced the CIF Tournament previously, Smotherman will be more prepared for the intense atmosphere and hopes to use the experience and high stakes to his advantage. “There is just a different feeling upon arrival at state,” Smotherman said. “You see guys that you have heard about or played against and you know there’s a good chance that someone is going to put up a real low number that day. I am just going to try to feed off of the pressure and play my best because I know that there is no reason that I can’t be the one to produce that low number.”

Smotherman has been shooting low numbers for a long time. 

The 18-year-old has had a club in his hands for nearly 16 years. As a toddler, Austin’s parents, Marla and Troy, who played golf together while dating, encouraged their son to hit plastic balls with baseball bats and small golf clubs. Smotherman’s first club was a plastic Snoopy club before his father sawed a 7-iron in half and re-gripped the handle with duct tape. To this day, Austin keeps that club and a Persimmon 3-wood in his room as reminders of his early playing days.

Marla’s father, Bill Acquistapace, still an avid golfer at the age of 74, often brought Austin along to the driving range and for an occasional quick nine holes at par-3 courses to expose him to the sport. 

At age 5, Austin joined the First Tee of Greater Sacramento’s Little Linkers program and a star was born. Smotherman captured junior club championships for his age every year from age 5 to 12, before he finally won the overall junior club title as a 12-year-old.

A natural on the course with a smooth swing, Smotherman’s success may be equally attributed to the non-golf lessons learned in The First Tee program.

“His temperament alone can take him a long way,” said Del Oro coach Hal Steinback. “I think that I have seen him angry on the golf course maybe once in the four years he has played for me. He always plays at an even keel and I think that has a lot to do with the First Tee program.”

Of course, the club speed that the slender 5-foot-11 Smotherman creates to crush drives 300 yards with relative ease does not hurt his game. In his senior season, Austin averaged a 35.6 9-hole average in dual matches and never shot higher than 73 in any 18-hole format. 

Smotherman points to his consistency as the key to his success, and hopes to make minor adjustments to his short game around the greens and bunker play to achieve peak performance in the final weeks of high school play.

“I am very confident right now and happy with my consistency,” he said. “I want to work on the short game, but I have been hitting my irons real well and have not created many opportunities outside of practice to have to chip or get up-and-down.”

Steinback sees very few problem areas with Smotherman’s game, especially as the senior has led the Golden Eagles down the stretch. Del Oro, the 2011 SJS Masters team champion, improved its team score by 11 strokes this year, but finished in third. They came in 11 strokes behind section champion Granite Bay, which posted a Masters-record 363. 

The third-place finish was disappointing for the defending champs, but still enough to qualify the Golden Eagles for the CIF/NCGA Northern California Championships in Chico. The higher level of competition at the Butte Creek course eliminated Del Oro from the State Championships as a team, but Smotherman will continue his quest as an individual qualifier.

“That’s when it gets really interesting,” Steinback said of the state tournament. “To do what he did at Sections and to do something close to that at state is like shooting low on Sunday at a (PGA) major. I know that he has the capability to do it, and the sky’s the limit for Austin in golf.”

Smotherman’s potential path to the professional ranks will shift to local, regional, and national amateur tournaments and then to SMU to continue to hone his skills as an amateur golfer. Austin will be one of five new freshmen entering the Mustangs’ program, each recruited to replace five graduating seniors. One of the other new freshmen, Ryan Burgess from Torrey Pines-La Jolla, will be Smotherman’s roommate on the Dallas, Texas campus. Before then, the two may have an opportunity to face each other in the state tournament.

“I have stayed with him and his family down there and played their home course in Rancho Santa Fe, so it would be fun to compete with him at state before we are on the same team in college,” Smotherman said.

With his 18th birthday happening just before the NorCal tournament, and graduation right around the corner, Smotherman can expect to enjoy some celebrations in the coming weeks. But celebrating an individual state golf title would be the ultimate birthday and graduation gift rolled into one.

“This whole senior year has been a great, fun experience for me,” Smotherman said. “But (winning the state title) would be very special and a cool way to pull everything together.”


SportStars Magazine: High School Sports Articles Online SportStars is your go-to source for the very best high school sports articles in California. Player and team profiles, game coverage, health and fitness tips and the largest Camps, Clinics & Combine resource for athletes. We're the story behind the stats.

No comments so far.

Be first to leave comment below.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *