Eighteen-year-old amateur sensation Elvis Smylie has admitted that he is a step closer to joining the professional ranks following his phenomenal performance to finish runner-up at The Players Series Victoria on Sunday.
Starting the final round six shots behind eventual winner Brad Kennedy, Smylie birdied the final three holes of the tournament to record a second consecutive 8-under 63 and for a few minutes owned possession of the lead in the clubhouse.
Kennedy’s own brilliant birdie at the 72nd hole prevented Smylie from registering a maiden professional win but didn’t diminish the sense of self-belief that he takes away from mixing it with – and matching – some of Australian golf’s biggest names.
Confirming that he will play the Australian Amateur at Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide from February 9-12, Smylie has no set plans on when he will turn professional but conceded that his display at Rosebud Country Club is another important step in the decision-making process.
“I know that I’m ready for the next step in my career. I’m ready for that, and that is turning professional,” said Smylie, who played the final 58 holes at The Players Series Victoria in 22-under par.
“I need to go away from this week, have a chat to my team and we’ll evaluate it more. I’ll play the Australian Amateur which is in a week-and-a-half and then reassess things.
“It gives me a huge amount of confidence knowing that I can perform at this level playing with great players.
“I played with Marcus Fraser who won last week so it was great to be able to play my best golf and play the way I’m capable of playing and showing everyone that.
“I want to go to European Tour Q School at the end of the year and I’ll play in everything that I can play as an amateur at this stage.
“Competition golf is massive now. It’s really important to stay amateur and play all the events and then when I’m ready I’ll turn pro.
“If I’d won this week I probably would have got an exemption on the Australasian Tour but I didn’t get that unfortunately.
“I’ll walk away and talk to my mum and my dad and my coach (Ian Triggs) and we’ll see from there.”
The only player to finish ahead of Smylie this week, champion Brad Kennedy, has already provided assistance in the young Queenslander’s development.
The Project One Putt practice system developed by Kennedy has been part of Smylie’s routine for the past year and The Players Series victor has no doubt there is an excellent professional career in the making.
“I think he has all the ingredients to be a great player,” Kennedy said. “He’s dedicated, he’s disciplined, he has the right mindset. He’s a very humble kid too.
“I’ve got a lot of time for Elvis so I’m sure we’ll be doing some work over the summer through chats and getting his ideas of what he experienced this week.
“I’m more than happy to jump in his corner and help him to achieve his dream because he’s got amazing talent and to do that down here just shows that.”
The son of tennis greats Peter and Liz Smylie, Elvis’s hopes of winning on Sunday appeared to take a hit when he three-putted the par-3 11th for bogey yet his composure and execution under pressure over the final three holes highlighted why good judges hold him in such high regard.
Winner of the Keperra Bowl by 13 strokes from Australian Amateur champion Jed Morgan last October, Smylie said a Sunday onslaught looked unlikely early in his round.
“It wasn’t looking good early on if I wanted to go super low because I wasn’t hitting anything close,” said Smylie, whose only birdie for the first five holes came at the par-4 second.
“But I hit it to 15 feet on six and made that so I was 2-under through six and then I stumped it on seven which was massive given it’s a longish par 3. I hit that to 10 foot and then made that so I was 3-under through seven. Then I hit it to three feet on eight and birdied nine so all of a sudden I was 5-under.
“I birdied 10 and three-putted 11 which was quite annoying but finishing 16, 17, 18 with birdies was pretty cool, especially under the circumstances I was in.
“I didn’t look at any leaderboards or anything, I just kept saying, One more, one more.
“At the end of the day it wasn’t good enough but I’m extremely proud of how I handled myself over the last couple of holes.
“It’s a massive confidence boost knowing I can do this at the biggest stage in front of massive crowds.
“Nothing beats this feeling of being in the hunt and having the chance to win the tournament. There’s nothing better. It’s why I practice and why I play this game, to have moments like today.”