Feb. 1, 2002
Editor's Note: Jerry Smith's columns appear monthly here at www.GoBaylorBears.com. Smith, a former Baylor golfer, is now enjoying life on the PGA tour and has offered to write a monthly column for the website detailing the world of pro golf.
My name is Jerry Smith and I am a Baylor Bear. I played golf for then-coach Gene Shields in 1984-86 and am now entering my third year on the PGA Tour. I'm both exited about the prospects of a new season and about being more actively involved with my alma mater.
In this inaugural article, I thought it best to provide a little history of the road I traveled between leaving Baylor in the fall of 1986 and earning my PGA Tour card in 2000. I did not take the normal path from college to the professional ranks of the PGA. It took me 14 years, seven attempts through the dreaded qualifying school, seven years in obscurity on the Asian Tour, four years working for my family on a golf course in the corn fields of Iowa and a year on the Nike Tour (now the Buy.Com Tour).
It has been quite the journey chasing a dream instilled in me from my family, which is now in its fourth generation in the golf business and still counting. I probably enjoy the game of golf more than ever and treat each year as a new challenge.
I would like to think that a win on the PGA Tour is in the cards for the 2002 season. It was my first major win as a professional, which occurred during my final year in Asia, that helped establish the confidence I needed to catapult me back to U.S. soil. That event was a convincing six-stroke victory at the 1998 Guam Open.
I entered "Q School" later that year and earned a conditional card on the Nike Tour (the equivalent of AAA in baseball). The Nike Tour served as a proving ground in 1999. I had three Top 10 finishes and ended the year 31st on the Money List.
Again, I entered qualifying school that fall and my time had truly come. The week leading up to the finals that year seemed like no other week while playing the Nike Tour. Areas of my game with which I had been struggling just came together. In fact, I remember playing a friendly round in Phoenix with some buddies at The Estancia Club and fired a bogey-free round of eight under par for a course record 64.
The finals that year were held outside of Miami at the Doral Resort. I played consistently the entire week shooting 17 under par and finishing in a tie for 7th place among 168 of the best professionals not already on the PGA Tour. It was a feeling like no other and one I got to share with my oldest brother, who caddied for me, and my wife, who scored for my group the final day.
I feel the journey of one's life never ends. Though making it on Tour at a rather late age, I'm anticipating my best years are rapidly approaching. In the coming articles I hope to share some of those highs and give you a better insight to life on the PGA Tour. If there are specific topics you'd like to learn more about, please click here.