Trey Smith won the 105th Virginia Amateur
GLEN ALLEN, VA (June 30, 2018) - In October 2016, Trey Smith went under the knife for surgery to remove a cyst that was bumping up against nerves in his wrist. His doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to be able to play golf for three months. Eight months later, he was still unable to swing a club, and the former James Madison University captain began to worry he’d never play competitively again.
“I didn’t think I’d be here, with all the health issues I’ve gone through the last year or so,” Smith said.
“Here” was The Federal Club, where the 25-year-old Smith was not only competitive in winning the 105th Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship, he was downright dominant at times. On Saturday, he raced to an early lead against fellow Richmond resident Andrew Kennedy and cruised to an 8-and-7 victory and the right to hoist the Schwarzschild Brothers Trophy.
The margin of victory was the largest in the event since Billy Hurley III defeated Jason Pool 9 and 8 in 2005. Smith, who grew up in Virginia Beach and starred at Kellam High School, also ended a long dry spell for mid-amateurs at the Amateur. He became the first player in the over-25 set to win the championship since Scott Shingler in 2011.
Smith’s wrist held up throughout the week, and he seemed to get stronger as the temperatures soared over the championship’s final few days. In May 2017, Smith was finally able to swing a club, but he was nowhere near ready to face the gauntlet of golf that awaits someone vying to win the Amateur Championship—36 holes of stroke-play qualifying followed by 100 holes or more of match play. He was in a holding pattern anyway. After briefly working as an assistant golf professional, he applied to have his amateur status reinstated, an application the USGA granted at the start of 2018.
“I could only really play nine (holes) and then maybe go a couple of more,” Smith said. “It took a while to get it back, to be honest with you. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrist surgery or not, this game is so hard. You take any time off, it takes a while to get it back. Especially when you have the expectations to play the way you had before.
“I put in some work last year, and I put in a lot of work this year as I knew I wanted to start playing in tournaments again. It just started getting stronger and better, big time.”
In his first tournament back as an amateur, Smith tied for eighth at The Signature at The Federal Club in April. He partnered with Chase Duffy at the VSGA Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship in May, and the side missed joining a playoff by a single stroke.
“I had a really good week out there, and we played really well,” Smith said. “Falling one shot short was really hard, because we felt like we had played really well. But I won a tournament two weeks after that (Virginia Beach amateur) and that really spring-boarded me to get going.”
Smith said he liked where his game was before this week started, though he had to sweat out even making the match-play field after a two-day 145 in qualifying left him just a shot inside of the cut line. He was strong once making it to Thursday, though. Only one of his matches leading up to Saturday’s 36-hole championship reached the 18th hole, and he carried that momentum into the title match.
On Saturday, Smith led 3 up through six holes and 5 up through 11 against Kennedy (Richmond CC), a rising sophomore at Radford University who reached the final in his VSGA Amateur debut.
“He was dialed in all day long, from the very beginning,” Kennedy said. “He was hitting perfect drives, perfect shots into the green. From the very beginning, I knew I had to hit it well just to keep up and keep the match close.”
Once Smith led 5 up, his lead never dipped below that margin. He led 6 up after the morning 18 holes and went dormie with a par on the par-5 10th hole. When both players made par on the par-3 11th, the match was over.
“Not to sound overconfident, but I felt really good about my game coming in,” Smith said. “The week before, I went home and played on Father’s Day with my dad and shot 64. Then I played really well in my practice round out here, and I know this course really well. So I was very confident. But getting to match play was the hardest part I had all week. I was borderline. I had to come back up here and see if I was in the playoff.
“To make it in, that’s goal No. 1. Then it’s a clean slate, and it’s mano-a-mano after that.”
Though Kennedy, who played his high school golf locally at Mills Godwin, didn’t get the result he wanted, he’ll look back on the week with a sense of pride. Among his accomplishments was beating two-time Amateur champion Keith Decker in the round of 16. He’ll tee it up in the Delta Dental State Open of Virginia next month before heading back to RU, where he’ll certainly have a renewed sense of confidence.
“I got rid of a lot of nerves this week,” Kennedy said. “When I played against Decker, I had made a 35 footer on 18 for birdie to push it into the playoff. Stepping over that putt … when you feel the nerves, it’s all about trying to control it and being able to block it out, and at that moment, I was able to. This week just kind of helped me block out nerves and just beat that aspect of competitive golf.”