Love of sport fuels North Augusta's NeSmith

North Augusta's Matt NeSmith placed fourth in the Class AAAA state tournament this year. The future South Carolina Gamecock also had stellar week at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.

NORTH AUGUSTA -- No one can take Matt NeSmith's clubs out of his hands -- the drives, putts and every other shot are all his to take.


NeSmith started playing golf at age 6, and he quickly discovered his love for the game. One of biggest reasons is that both the pressure and the potential glory rest on his shoulders.

"I played basketball, but if you come down to the last 10 seconds in a game of basketball, I want to take that shot and everybody else wants to take that shot," NeSmith said. "But in golf, you're the only one who can. And you're the only one to blame if you play bad. If you play bad, it's your fault. Your success is all you and your failures are all you."

A rising senior at North Augusta, NeSmith has already seen many memorable moments, and his strong season has made him The Augusta Chronicle 's pick as the boys golfer of the year.

NeSmith finished fourth in the South Carolina High School League Class AAAA state tournament earlier this year, among his other accomplishments.

His fourth-place showing in April's Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club gave him a boost, even if he thinks he played only his "B-plus" game overall in the first two rounds.

The future South Carolina Gamecock is still be working on his confidence and the mental aspect of golf, but they're both getting there.

"I don't like bragging on myself, but I do believe you have to have that inner confidence and cockiness," NeSmith said. "Some people like to tell everybody that they're good -- I'd rather let my clubs do the talking."

The Yellow Jacket works on his game for nearly 12 hours every day in the summer and for six, sometimes seven days a week.

During the school year, NeSmith tries to out to the course as much as possible.

Once a school day ends, he hurries home to change so he can arrive at the course by 4:20 p.m. He doesn't leave until it gets dark.

NeSmith won't have much time to relax this month, starting with the South Carolina Golf Association's Junior Championship, which begins Monday. His busy month also features the Rice Planters Amateur Golf Tournament and ends with the Rolex Tournament of Champions in Oregon.

Though NeSmith, who is ranked in the top 50 nationally among juniors, grew up playing baseball, basketball and football as well as golf, he eventually crossed other sports off the list.

Baseball ruined his golf swing and football was an injury risk.

As for basketball, he ran into a different road block -- he jokes he didn't shoot well, couldn't jump high enough and wasn't fast enough.

However, golf is all he wants and needs.

He can't get enough of it.

NeSmith remembers watching Rory McIlroy's perfect warmup on Sunday of the Masters Tournament and later Tiger Woods' eagle on No. 8 as NeSmith got to the grandstand just after Woods' second shot.

NeSmith said he would give anything to get a chance to play at Augusta National Golf Club just once, but he mostly dreams about experiencing something like Sage Valley again.

To NeSmith, golf is not only about executing a shot, it's also about the challenge.

"I feel like I took the SAT every time I finish golf," NeSmith said. "I love playing. That's what my life has been about until now and I hope it really stays that way. I can't play enough golf. I love it."

Matt NeSmith

Favorite sports moment: “Probably the first two days at Sage (Valley). Just starting it well and it being on TV, and a lot of people being out there, I really found out what I want to do, to be in the middle of that environment every week to make putts when you have to and have people go nuts is awesome. I get chill bumps just thinking about it. I made a 30-footer on 18 for birdie on the second day and there’s probably 200 people there and they just went nuts. If this is anything near what the pros get, this is freaking awesome.”

Favorite athletes: Tiger Woods and young golfers such as Anthony Kim.

Best advice: “If you’re good enough with the physical aspect and you have a bad game, then it’s a lot more of the mental aspect you need to look at.”



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