Golf is such a mental game that the difference between a birdie and double bogey can be minuscule.
Take Jared Smith. The Western junior placed sixth at the region tournament last year, and after studying his own game all summer, found that his posture was poor.
He was an afterthought last year and finished seven strokes back. This year, he claims to have shaved about seven strokes off his game, and is considered one of the favorites entering Monday’s Class 3A Southern Region tournament beginning Monday at Boulder City Municipal.
“When big tournaments happen, you always have that little nervous feeling,” Smith said. “After you get off the first tee it all seems to settle down and then that’s when it starts rolling.”
Smith hits the links at least five times a week, and couldn’t even estimate the amount of swings he takes in a given day. He won four of the six Sunset League matches this season, placing second and third in the other two.
“This is passion, this is what he does,” Western coach Susanne Bohen said. “His focus is on golf and golf only.”
He talks about his game with a refreshing sense of self-awareness, portraying confidence without appearing cocky and discussing weaknesses without sounding self-deprecating. He knows that with the regular season success comes pressure to perform in the postseason.
“I know I can shoot low. I’m really not too worried about the other guys out there, it’s really just a matter of beating yourself because yourself is what holds you back,” Smith said. “You have learn to control your mind in order to shoot low scores.”
His best score this year was par 72 at The Club at Sunrise on April 10, and last year’s region winner shot a 1-under-par 71. But the competition is tough in the Southern Region. Boulder City’s Jackson Wright carded a better score than Smith at region last year, and he is back this season. Teammate Blake Schaper has done to the Sunrise League what Smith has done to the Sunset. Mojave’s Marcus Mullins won the two Sunset matches that Smith did not.
So a Smith victory is far from a shoo-in. But if he brings a region title home to Western, it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise, either.
“He absolutely could win,” Bohen said. “If he has his best days, there’s no reason why he couldn’t win state this year.”
Southern Nevada region golf schedule
Class 4A Sunrise and Sunset Region
First day: Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. at Paiute Golf Club
Second day: Wednesday, noon at Paiute Golf Club
Class 3A Southern Region
First day: Monday at 12:30 p.m. at Boulder City Municipal
Second day: Tuesday, 12:30 p.m. at Boulder Creek Golf Club
Class 2A Southern League
Wednesday, 11 a.m. at Canyon Gate Country Club