Matt NeSmith enjoys setting big goals for himself.
As one of the nation’s top junior golfers, the North Augustan has reeled off one accomplishment after another. So when he enters the University of South Carolina in August, he’ll start chipping away at his new list.
The 18-year-old NeSmith, The Augusta Chronicle’s boys golfer of the year, wants to make the All-Southeastern Conference first team and All-
SEC freshman team. If that’s not enough, he also wants to be a NCAA Division I first-team All-American. When asked about his lofty aspirations, he didn’t back down.
“I’ve played with a lot of kids in college now and they don’t have anything that I don’t have,” he said. “It’s all about mindset. Mindset is a very big thing in how people play. If people are scared, they’re going to play scared. But if you know you can beat people, it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing on their shirt. So I’m not worried about it.”
NeSmith’s knocked off many of his junior golf goals already. Late last year, he won the Polo Golf Junior Classic and Jones Cup Junior Invitational. In April, he won the Azalea Amateur. NeSmith is currently the No. 2-ranked junior, according to the American Junior Golf Association.
NeSmith was one of the pre-tournament favorites at April’s Junior Invitational at Sage Valley. He posted rounds of 73-69-70 to finish in a tie for second, three shots behind champion Zachary Olsen. After the tournament, NeSmith switched to the Ping Nome, a mallet-style putter.
“I played great. I just didn’t make anything. That was very frustrating,” he said. “It took a little while getting used to the putter, but I’ve been putting great with it. Something clicked.”
Everything worked together in May at the South Carolina High School League’s Class AAAA state championship. NeSmith recorded rounds of 69-69-70 for an eight-shot victory, a triumphant rebound after he finished fourth in 2011.
“It was nice to win, especially as hard as I’ve worked the past couple years,” he said. “To win region, lower state and state all made it pretty awesome.”
NeSmith has a busy summer planned before he moves to Columbia. He’s playing in the Palmetto Amateur, which runs Thursday through Sunday at Palmetto Golf Club. Next week, he’ll play in the FootJoy Invitational in Greensboro, N.C. The following week, he’ll play in the Northeast Amateur.
At the end of the month, he will play in the Rolex Tournament of Champions in Alpharetta, Ga. In July, he’s planning to play in the Players Amateur in Bluffton, S.C., before playing in the Porter Cup in New York. Then, he’ll play in a U.S. Amateur qualifier.
That could delay his collegiate goals.
“Hopefully, I can make the U.S. Amateur,” he said, “and miss the first week of school.”