Calgary's Smith shoots for LPGA card

TODD SAELHOF, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 PM ET

For Ashley Smith, playing golf was once just the way life worked.

Now the young Calgarian wants to make the game her life’s work, beginning with Wednesday’s first round of the LPGA Tour Q-School in Daytona Beach, Fla.

With five solid rounds, she can put herself in position to play alongside the best female golfers in the world and play for prize money she never thought possible.

“I’m going there expecting to make it,” said Smith, a 21-year-old product of the Glencoe Golf & Country Club.

“You have to go in with confidence. So many people there are going in expecting to qualify, so you need that confidence.”

Given the way golf has gone for her in 2010, faith in herself shouldn’t be an issue.

Smith has sparkled this season, winning a couple of major amateur events before making the decision to turn professional.

In June, she won the Ontario Women’s Match Play event, triumphing over multiple champions and experienced golfers en route to a surprising victory.

Then in July, the Elbow Park resident crushed the competition at the Alberta Ladies Amateur, winning by 17 strokes with four-round total of 6-under 278.

After that, she went pro and took her game to an LPGA Q-School sectional in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where she was the only Canadian to crack the top 30 and qualify for the this week’s five-round final stage.

The 2007 RCGA junior girls’ team member credits her successful summer to a change in philosophy.

“I took a year-and-a-half off and didn’t touch a club,” said Smith of taking a hiatus from the sport while attending Arizona State University. “I was just a normal student, but I became bored — I’d been doing sports all my life, and I missed playing golf. It was just a rededication to the game and looking at my priorities.

“That year off really changed my focus.”

So did signing on with the right coach, former PGA player Gabriel Hjertstedt.

“Last year, I started working with him,” Smith said. “It started clicking, and everything came together this summer. I definitely wasn’t expecting to have that good of a summer.”

And it’s translated into a promising fall.

Not only did she qualify for this week’s final stage of LPGA Q-School, but Smith made the most of a trip to Spain last week when she made the grade during pre-qualifying for the Ladies European Tour. Just as was the case at the LPGA sectional, the Calgarian finished one stroke above the cut-line to qualify, meaning she’ll head back to Spain for the final stage of Q-school to play for tour status in Europe, Dec. 15-19.

“I would love to play on both the LPGA and the European tours,” Smith added. “I have worked very hard to get here, and I hope all the work pays off in the next few weeks.”

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca


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