DIABLO GRANDE — Before the first tee of the Northern California Championship at Diablo Grande Golf Course on Monday, Turlock High junior Paul Smith already had made up his mind.
Even if he landed in the top six, enough to qualify him for the CIF State Championship, he wasn't going to go to the prestigious event. He wanted to focus on his junior tournament season, something many aspiring golfers consider more important.
But Smith didn't play as if he already made other plans.
He made a statement.
“I told myself that I was going to be the most aggressive person out there,” he said.
In a tournament featuring some of the best golfers in California, Smith fired a one-over 73 to tie with eight others for 18th place. It was the first time in three years he competed at the Diablo golf course, where the conditions were rather ideal for a springtime tournament with clear skies and cool weather.
The best score of the day was a 65, carded by Christian Brothers High's Jarrett Link.
Though his junior season is over, Smith has plenty of golf left to play — in non-high school competition. He will compete in an amateur tournament in Fresno next week before an American Junior Golf Association match in Phoenix on June 6-10.
He had made a commitment to the latter tournament before he won the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters on May 17 with a score of 69, because it could lead to a college scholarship, as coaches are known to attend such events.
“I'm feeling really confident,” said Smith, whose older brother is Sam Smith, the University of Southern California golfer who had his share of accolades at Turlock. “I'm playing a lot better right now. Everything is in sync, including my putting and chipping, which is pretty good. That's the most important thing.”
On Monday, Paul Smith started off his 18-hole round with a birdie, a triple bogey, and then another birdie, immediately giving himself a bittersweet feeling. But he eventually recovered and finished with eight pars and a birdie in his final nine holes.
His coach, Ben Culala, said Smith is continuing to make a name for himself, despite the fact that he comes from a successful golf family.
“He proved himself this year,” Culala said.
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