Son on my tail, says NZ veteran David Smail
MATT RICHENS IN QUEENSTOWN
David Smail is not so keen on playing golf with his son Charlie anymore, but he's still confident he can foot it with the young brigade in Queenstown this week.
Smail, 43, is one of the country's most consistent and well-performed professionals and is one of eight former winners in the field for this week's $900,000 New Zealand Open.
But he's starting to fear his 15-year-old son who plays off a 1-handicap. Charlie has never beaten his father, the 2001 New Zealand Open champion and long-time Japan Tour member, "but it's getting close".
"He's hitting it long, nearly as long as me, which is upsetting so I'm going to have to get back to the gym," Smail said.
"I've managed to not lose to him yet, but I'm not playing with him too much just in case it happens. I think it's going to happen soon."
Smail Jr will get a close up look at how his father plays this week at The Hills and Millbrook courses as he is on his dad's bag.
A few rounds with his son aside, Smail Sr hasn't spent as much time on the golf course as some in preparation for this week's 72-hole pro-am style event.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said.
"There's a little bit of pressure because I'm at home, but it's my first tournament of the year so I'm kind of feeling a bit underdone."
The flipside of that, Smail said, was that he was fresh.
He strung together a number of tournaments in a row on the Japan Tour late last year in an effort to retain his card which he did by finishing 48th on the money list.
But he pushed himself too hard and it started to affect his golf.
"It was just too many events in a row and I found I was getting frustrated really easily."
So his goals this week are modest.
Maybe he's just being humble, maybe it's because he's never played well at The Hills or maybe he's just foxing his opponents, but all Smail wanted from the New Zealand Open was "a nice solid start to the year".
Well, maybe that's not all he wants.
"A win would be nice, of course. And a solid top 10 would be great too, but as I said I'm a bit underdone. We'll see how it goes. There's no pressure here because it's not part of the Japan Tour so there's no worry about money or cards, it's just about enjoying the week and playing as well as I can."
And then he's back to Japan, via the season opening and OneAsia Tour co-sanctioned Indonesian PGA Championship.
He's happy in Japan and plying his trade there and has no plans to stop.
"I struggled a bit last year, but I still enjoy it. I've got to try and keep up with these young fellas, I'm 44 this year.
"Long term? I'm just wanting to go as long as I can. I still enjoy it. If I can make it a few more years then the Senior Tour will certainly turn up pretty quickly. But I'm happy playing, it's all I want to do, it's all I can do probably."
Unless Charlie follows his footsteps and goes pro, too.
"Maybe I get him out there earning and I could get into managing or something."
* Meanwhile, Christchurch professional Tony Christie has come out of the golfing wilderness to qualify for the New Zealand Open.
The 44-year-old, who these days is the golf pro at the exclusive Laucala Resort in Fiji where he mixes with celebrities, carded a four-under par 67 yesterday to share the honours at Omaha Beach Golf Club with South Korean pro and former Waikato interprovincial player Dongwoo Kang.
Christie was one of five players to qualify from the 39-strong.
Fijian professional Vikrant Chandra and Auckland pro Marcus Wheelhouse both carded rounds of three-under par 68 to secure their spots and the fifth and final place went to Bay of Plenty professional Kieran Muir, who won in sudden death from three players.
The last spots in the field will be finalised today at the final qualifying tournament in Cromwell.
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