The racehorse trainer Peter Moody once said there’s only two states worth being in: Queensland and drunk. Cameron Smith might have just found utopia, at least in the eyes of the man who prepared Black Caviar.
If they’re not excelling at humour, Queenslanders are also pretty industrious types. When he wanted to learn the game as a small child, Cameron Smith started tagging his father around the northern suburbs of Brisbane at Wantima Golf Club. Des Smith cut a piece of PVC pipe, strapped it to his pull cart, and would throw a few shorn-down clubs in there for Cameron to muck around with.
When it was wet and the desire to get out on the course waned, a young Smith would harass his dad even more. He figured if he wasn’t as big or as strong as other kids, he would use his brain to beat their brawn, and the more difficult the weather, the better his chances.
“We would have little competitions, ‘I bet you can’t get that up and down’,” Des Smith told the Herald and The Age after Cameron’s stunning win in the 150th The Open at St Andrews on Monday morning (AEST). “He’s just got a really good golf brain, excellent technique and he just sees stuff and pulls it off.
“He started playing so young and was so good at every level he played, to people around him it was almost inevitable he was going to be a professional – and be pretty good at it if that makes sense.”
On the same day five-time The Open winner Peter Thomson’s ashes were scattered across the 18th green at St Andrews, Smith became the fifth Australian men’s major winner of world golf’s most prestigious tournament.
Cameron Smith became the fifth Australian to win The Open.Credit:Getty
He started the day four shots behind overnight leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland, and then fired a peerless record-breaking eight-under 64 in the final round to beat American Cameron Young, who eagled the last hole, by one shot. Smith’s compatriot Adam Scott said Smith’s six birdies on the back nine was Tiger Woods-like.
“I think it was a good thing that I was definitely behind,” Smith said. “I think my mindset would have been a touch different coming in, especially on that back nine, if I was ahead. I knew it wasn’t going to be too long before I got one of these. I’ve knocked on the door, I think, maybe one too many times now. So it’s nice to get it done.”
Yet the difference between golf’s relentless winning machine in Woods, who had no time for charity for rivals who often idolised him, and the knockabout Smith couldn’t be more stark.
There’s a picture of Smith kicking back on a poolside lounge with a can of XXXX in his hand which was used with a Golf Digest cover story on the Australian earlier this year. He’s even more comfortable fishing off the back of the jetty of his Florida home, or driving the fast cars or ride-on lawnmowers he uses to take his mind away from golf.
To people around him, it was almost inevitable he was going to be a professional and be pretty good at it if that makes sense.
When his mother Sharon and sister Mel visited him earlier this year for the first time in years, he won The Players Championship, at the time the richest purse in world golf. The last fortnight he saw his coach Grant Field in person for the first time since the pandemic, and then won at the spiritual home of golf.
“He’s always been able to really separate his golf from the rest of his life,” Smith’s former state and national junior coach Tony Meyer said. “Golf is just golf. He would just play, and whether he had a good or a bad round, when it was done it was done. He was very good at that.
“Every time you see him, he’s a little bit better than the last time. That’s been the case for the last 10 years. I see him three or four times a year, and every time you see him he’s better than the last time he was there. But in reality he’s a kid at heart.”
Smith’s first major win took a serious turn when he was probed in his post-tournament press conference about speculation he is about to join Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed LIV Golf series. Smith played a straight bat to the line of questioning.
He was born just a month after the second of Norman’s two The Open triumphs in 1993, and Norman lavished praise on his fellow Queenslander through social media shortly after the momentous win, in the same week the Maroons upset NSW in the State of Origin series decider.
Rugby league-loving Smith couldn’t watch the match because it was the final day of practice before The Open. He was told the result, and then still went back to his accommodation and watched a replay anyway.
So, what’s more important to a staunch Queenslander: winning an Origin series or your son winning golf’s oldest prize?
“Origin was a very close second,” laughed Des.
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