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Against all odds – playoff with Cameron Smith

Story by Emajin Pro Allan Haughie.

In 2010, I was playing Australian Amateur in Western Australia at Lake Karrinyup Golf Course where I qualified for the top 32 matchplay event via a playoff. I drew the number 2 ranked seed Jin Jeong who only 1 month later won British Amateur and finished 14th at the British Open. The match was of the highest standard finishing square through 18 with 7 birdies and then winning on the 3rd extra hole with another birdie.

Great win!

Well, next up was the top 16. I’m checking out who I’m playing and the name next up was Cameron Smith. Everyone was saying, “OMG Allan, you’re playing Cam Smith, Holy s**t!  He’s the number 1 ranked junior in Australia at 16 years of age!”.

I remember thinking, ‘geez, this guy must be really good for everyone to put him on a pedestal’. When I finally met Cam Smith, he was so down to earth and only a 16-year-old boy. He didn’t look like a golfer at all, and so must have been really good to warrant all the praise. I was mentally preparing myself for the tough match to come.

On the 2nd hole Cam was in an impossible position chipping to the green. And what does he do? Hits the perfect flop shot over a bunker and trickles into the hole, 2 down through 2. He then birdies the 3rd hole and now I’m 3 down thinking ‘let’s not embarrass myself’. Several holes in, I had faith that I could strike the ball same as this guy, and if I just focus on my game, I could beat him or at least give him a run for his money.

Scores remained 3 down through 10 holes. Finally on the 11th on the par 5, I chipped in for eagle. Boom! 2 down. But the next thing I hear is the air horn going off… play suspended. At that time the weather was perfect, so I wasn’t sure why the alarm was sounding.

We got back to the club house and 10min later an absolutely massive storm hit Perth. Hail stones bigger than golf balls rained down, cutting off all power to Perth. I was planning on finding a place to stay that night depending on the results of the matchplay, so now I was trying to find a room without internet or electricity to book anything. After talking to a few NSW golfers, there was a spare bed in the house some of them were renting. I still remember searching for a place to get dinner – only a Chinese restaurant was open, so I got a large fried rice, saving half for breakfast the next day and hoping the powerless fridge was still cold enough to keep it good.

Morning comes; I smashed my fried rice and got to the golf course, ready for the match ahead. Of course, the course was trashed from the storms, and se we went to the 11th tee, a short par 3.

With the momentum from the day before, I went onto win the next 2 holes in a row to get it back to square. My only priority was to keep going and stay on focus. But in the blink of an eye, I made a couple mistakes and lost 2 holes in a row. Suddenly I was 2 down standing on the 16th hole, the hardest hole on the course. Cam hit one up the middle.  Pressure was on me and I hit driver right into the trees. I grabbed a provisional ball, teed it up and carved it just as far right. After my brief comeback, this was definitely a letdown.

I found both golf balls in the trees and proceed to chip out next to Cam’s tee shot. Cam’s next shot leaves it short of the green in the bunker. I hit my shot just short of the green too. Cam’s shot was next.  Uncharacteristically, he thins the shot up the back of the green. My turn, ‘chip-in’ for par! I couldn’t believe it! Somehow I’d won the hole after throwing both tee shots in the trees! And with that, I was back to 1 down.

Now at the 17th, a long Par 3, my tee shot went straight into the wind off the right. I then hit this perfect low flighted 5 iron about 10 feet. Cam turns one over into the left bunker, and then hits his bunker shot about 6 feet. I drain my birdie putt.  Match is ‘all square’ now. What a rollercoaster game this was shaping up to be…

We halve the 18th and head onto the 1st tee for the extra playoff hole. Both in good position to a back flag. I hit a shot straight at it and the ball flies over the back of the green into a difficult up and down place. Cam hits his 2nd shot into the middle of green 30 feet away. I hit a flop shot to about 12 feet, nowhere near the hole, and I’m thinking the game is certainly over. Cam putts it to 6 feet.

Standing over my putt, no thoughts come to me. There’s nothing left to do but run though my practice routine, stand over the putt and hit it.  My 12-foot putt drains, centre cup, into the hole! Must have shocked Cam, as he went on to miss his own putt. It was unbelievable, I had just beat Cam Smith!

We shook hands, and he congratulated me with a smile. A true sportsman!

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