Written by Mark Griffin
Sunday, 12 October 2008 09:19
The highlight of Matt Smith's four years at Lake High School could be that he was voted the homecoming king last Friday in the Lake-Woodmore football game. That, however, wasn't what the Flyers' standout golfer had in mind.
Smith, the Suburban Lakes League Player of the Year — Lake's first since it joined the SLL 11 years ago — wanted to play in the state golf tournament before he graduated. The senior came up two strokes short of qualifying for Columbus during last Thursday's district tournament at Sycamore Springs.
"I'm disappointed," Smith said. "Now I just look ahead and look forward to things to come, like with college."
No Lake golfer has ever made the state tournament, according to third-year coach Terry Tansel. Coming up short at districts, however, didn't diminish what Smith accomplished during his career.
"Matt was consistent from the first match to the end," Tansel said. "He went out and had some very good rounds and few rounds where he wasn't right at his average. He shot an even-par 72 at the Wood County Championship (at Forest Creason), where he was the medalist. That was one of the highlights of the season."
The Flyers used Smith's score in all 19 matches this season, and he was their medalist in all but two matches while earning first-team All-SLL honors. He was a second-team all-league performer as a junior and had a 39.1 stroke average in 2008, the fourth-best average in school history.
"I would say it's been my best year by far," Smith said. "I guess I could have done better, but I can't really look back and say I wish I could have done this or that, because I had a great year."
The soft-spoken Smith shot a 7-over 78 at the SLL tournament on Sept. 17 at Green Hills in Clyde to cement his first-team all-league status.
Tansel said one of the keys to Smith's game is his length off the tee.
"He hits his driver farther than anyone I've ever coached," Tansel said. "He just hits the ball a ton. At districts, on the 370-yard fifth hole, he drove it on the green. He had the wind behind him and he was putting for eagle on a par-4. That's just an example on the length he can have."
The 6-4, 165-pound Smith admitted he doesn't understand where he gets his power.
"I probably hit the ball about 280-290 (yards) on average," he said. "The power, I have no idea. I'm just a lanky kid. The length, for some reason, has been there. I don't try to kill the ball. I'd much rather be in the fairway than be 300 yards in the right rough."
Smith and the Flyers took second out of 12 teams at the sectional tournament at Heatherdowns. Smith tied for second overall out of 60 golfers. At the district tournament, however, Lake finished last out of nine teams.
"It was a tough field," Tansel said.
Smith shot a 7-over 79 that day, followed by freshman teammate Nathan Yeager (90), sophomore Casey Witt (94) and freshman Jake Materni (106).
"It was really cold and windy," Smith said. "I missed one fairway the whole day and I just couldn't hit greens and I couldn't make my putts. I couldn't get myself down because I still had a chance. I'm sure some of the other kids weren't playing that great. I gave it my best shot."
Smith, who plans to play golf in college and study either golf course management or sports management, had to be happy with the fact that he garnered the SLL Player of the Year honor.
"It's been my goal since sophomore year," he said. "I really wanted it. I was overjoyed to have it. It's a great honor to have. I came in fourth in the (SLL) points, but I think the coaches saw that I had the best attitude. Eastwood's coach called me and told me I had a lot of class, and I really appreciated that."