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Del Oro’s Austin Smotherman is competing in U.S. Junior Amateur Championship this week

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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It’s been nearly seven months since Austin Smotherman went more than two days without playing golf. Now that his senior year of high school just a few weeks away, he’s packing in all the tournaments he can, including the biggest one of the year this week. Smotherman is in Bremerton, Wash. for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. He will tee off at 12:35 p.m. at Gold Mountain Golf Course, taking on some of the top young players in the world. “It’s the biggest junior tournament in the nation, if not the world,” said Smotherman, who will be a senior at Del Oro High this fall. “It’s definitely going to be the most fun I’ve had all year. I’m looking to do pretty well.” Smotherman is swinging a hot stick. He was the top qualifier for the U.S. Junior Amateur after firing a two-round total of 136 at Yolo Fliers Club in Woodland last month. Just last week, Smotherman shot the lowest score at the Sacramento County Junior Championship, but an improperly signed scorecard cost him the title. “I will definitely learn from that,” he said. Smotherman’s summer of great golf began at the CIF State Championships in June, when he fired a 1-under-par 71 at Poppy Hills to place fourth. “That was the first tournament I had out of school and I played well,” Smotherman said. “I definitely feel like that paved the way for the rest of the summer.” Golf is often a solitary pursuit and that is definitely the case for Smotherman, who said he does not have a personal coach. He’s had 10 or 15 lessons in his life and essentially taught himself how to play the game. “I just kind of feel it out. I know what works for me,” Smotherman said. “I’m more confident in myself and right now I have confidence in my whole game.” UC Davis had enough confidence in Smotherman to offer him a scholarship late last year. He committed to the Aggies last spring and is excited about joining the Davis team in 2012. The next couple of weeks will be a whirlwind for Smotherman, who was honored Sunday night as one of just a handful of players making their third straight appearance at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. Smotherman is hoping to make a deep run this week and play through the final round on Saturday. He will then fly home before heading to Monterey for the Northern California Golf Association Junior Championship on July 25-26. He’ll try to fit in the Sacramento City Junior Championship on July 27-28 and then it’s off to Mississippi to represent California in the Big I Junior Classic. The crowded calendar is just fine with Smotherman. “I love it. Every day, golf changes,” he said. “There’s something new every time you play. It’s definitely the most golf I’ve ever played, but it’s nice because I’m playing the best I’ve every played.”