Cameron Smith, a 17-year-old from Brisbane, Australia, is competing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and is one of two Australians in the field at Gold Mountain Golf Club. USGA senior staff writer David Shefter caught up with Smith, who posted rounds of 72-73 to make the match-play cut, and talked about what brought him to the United States to compete this summer.
How do you find out about the U.S. Junior Amateur in Australia?
Smith: A High Performance instructor with Golf Australia used to be a college coach over here (Brad James, at the University of Minnesota) and he told me about it.
How long a trip is this for you?
Smith: It took me about 29 hours to get over here with the layovers. I flew to Los Angeles and [then to] Detroit. I went to the [Junior Amateur sectional] qualifying first in Durham, North Carolina.
Why go to North Carolina and qualify versus California or Hawaii?
Smith: Because it was one of the last ones and I didn’t have to have long stays [between the qualifier and the championship].
Is this your first trip to America?
Smith: I played the Thunderbird [Invitational] last year in Scottsdale (Arizona).
What is different about playing here versus Australia?
Smith: I find the courses are a lot softer and the rough around the greens. We have all fairway and stuff. We play more links golf.
Do you plan to play college golf in the U.S.?
Smith: That’s not an option at the moment. I graduated high school last year.
What is in your immediate future?
Smith: Just golfing and working. I work with my dad at the moment.
Do you have aspirations of being a touring golf professional?
Smith: Yes. I follow Jason Day. I haven’t met him, but I have been around him quite a bit. He’s good.
I saw on your online bio that you won some big events in Australia. What events were they?
Smith: I won the Australian Junior and the Australian Men’s Stroke Play. Those are the two big ones.
How does this field compare to the ones in Australia?
Smith: I don’t know anyone over here, so I just try to play my best.
How long are you staying in the States to play?
Smith: I qualified in Durham and then I went to The Players Amateur at Belfair [in South Carolina] and then I played the Southern Amateur at Innisbrook [near Tampa, Fla.] last week. I’m playing Porter Cup [near Niagara Falls, N.Y.] next week.
Who funds this trip because it can’t be cheap to come over here?
Smith: Help [from Golf Australia] and I’ve got very supportive parents.
What’s the coolest part about being in the U.S.?
Smith: The food is different. They drive on the wrong side of the road.
Can you drive here?
Smith: My dad is driving this week. My dad and my grandfather are here this week. This is the first time they’ve been here. They only came over for this event.
So you travel by yourself to the other competitions? Do you stay with host families?
Smith: Yeah. It’s very nice.
Any plans for the fall?
Smith: Just play some more golf and work. At some point [I will turn pro]. Over here, I think I need a little bit of work out of the rough because it’s different.