As a 17-year-old from Brisbane, Cameron Smith couldn’t imagine winning a more important tournament than the 2010 Greg Norman Junior Masters.
Ten years on and Smith has completed another career ambition by claiming the 2020 Greg Norman Medal.
In a year of professional golf wildly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith was able to record a maiden individual PGA TOUR title at the Sony Open and his best result in a major championship, enjoying a share of the lead at the halfway mark before finishing second to Dustin Johnson at a November Masters tournament at Augusta National.
Shortly after having Australian sports fans in the captivated grip of another potential green jacket, Smith played in the Shark Shootout, he and Norman advancing their relationship from mutual lawn admiration on Instagram over dinner with 2018 Greg Norman Medal winner Marc Leishman.
Suspicious at the behaviour of his management team in Bud Martin and Ian Davis and girlfriend Jordan, the realisation of Smith’s medal win only became apparent when Norman’s familiar face appeared larger than life on his laptop.
“It was pretty surprising. I was obviously in a bit of shock because I didn’t really know what was going on,” Smith said of his video call with the Australian golf icon.
“My girlfriend and my agent were trying to play a bit of a trick on me and try and surprise me and when Jordan said she had to be on the call as well I thought, That’s weird.
“I was thinking of so many different scenarios – just weird scenarios – and then as soon as the Shark popped up on screen I knew what it was and that Jordan had something in her pocket.
“It’s something that has been on the goal list for a few years now. To tick that one off is really nice and I was saying to Bud and Ian, it would be nice to get another four or five before I’m all said and done.”
Although at 27 years of age Smith only caught the tail end of Norman’s extraordinary career, his status in the game was such that anything with the Norman name attached added a sense of gravitas for any young Aussie golfer.
“That’s who we basically grew up watching so at the time I thought that as the biggest tournament in the world,” Smith said of his Junior Masters win, 2018 Greg Norman Medal winner Minjee Lee winning the girls section that same week.
“It’s pretty funny to think back like that now and think of those things.”
With an enforced layoff in 2020 that gave Smith an insight into how he can best manage his playing schedule to maximise his performances in golf’s biggest events, the COVID-19 pandemic also had an impact on the way he and long-time coach Grant Field communicated.
They had to rely entirely on video and phone calls to make minor adjustments that would yield such a strong finish to the year but when the swing has changed so little over the course of 15 years it was a simple transition to make.
Field and Smith first came into contact when Smith was selected in a junior development squad at 10 years of age, his father Des making the shrewd observation that Field was the right coach to develop his son into the player he is today.
“It was basically my old man’s decision at the start. I was too young to think about what golf was,” Smith says of linking up with Field.
“I was still playing golf and walking around after Dad. He was making all the decisions at that age. I think I was only 10 years old when I first started seeing Grant.
“There’s a lot of stuff in my swing today that we’ve been talking about for 15 years. Which is crazy when you think about it because your body changes so much; everything changes so much.
“On one side it’s really annoying but we know that we’ve got a good thing going and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel to get my swing back to where it needs to be sometimes.
“We generally try and keep everything as simple as possible. He does a good job of dumbing it down for me sometimes.
“We just love each other. When we’re spending time together it’s a bit of a bromance. We love each other’s company, we love hanging out together and we’ve basically got the same interests in life.
“He’s just a good bloke and he knows what he’s talking about, so that’s all the areas ticked.
“It was obviously a good decision in the end.”
Past Greg Norman Medal winners:
2015: Jason Day
2016: Jason Day
2017: Marc Leishman
2018: Minjee Lee
2019: Hannah Green