There’s no such thing as a ‘can’t-miss kid’. The golf history books are littered with those who were ordained the next Tiger or Jack or Greg Norman but who, for all sorts of reasons mostly unrelated to ability, never made it.
But there are standout talents that come along every now and then and this Australian summer of golf – an achievement in itself given the pandemic – has unearthed a teenage prospect worthy of all our attention.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already heard of Elvis Smylie. And if you haven’t, you’re going to.
Smylie finished runner up at last week’s NSW Open to Bryden Macpherson (an intriguing story himself) to cap a remarkable start to his professional career.
Just 18 years old, Smylie was still an amateur when the Australian golf season kicked off in January.
His runner-up finish at the first 72-hole strokeplay event of 2021 at the TPS event at Rosebud earned him no money but an enormous amount of respect.
It also likely sealed his decision to leave amateur golf behind and join the pay for play ranks. After all, if it takes everything the seasoned veteran Brad Kennedy can muster to outduel the lanky left-hander by a shot, then he is clearly ready for the next step.
RIGHT: Smylie and Mike Clayton during the final round at Concord. PHOTOS: Adrian Logue.
Fast forward to Sydney’s Bonnie Doon and the second TPS event and Smylie made his professional debut. He finished in a share of third.
A week later he missed the cut at his home state Open in Queensland but wasted no time bouncing back with his runner-up finish at Concord.
The results speak for themselves (and have guaranteed Smylie a place on the local Tour next season without a trip to the Q-School) but it is more than just the scores that separate this youngster.
Fellow Golf Australia magazine writer and professional of 40 years Mike Clayton is as good a judge as any in the game and having carried the bag for Smylie three times over the summer has no doubt the teen has everything required to compete at the top level.
But more than just the brilliant driving, superb iron play and next level wedge game (Clayton says Smylie is as good as he’s seen from 100 metres and in) Smylie appears to have that intangible that separates the very best from the merely unbelievably good.
He has a flair for the dramatic and seemingly a sixth sense for the big moment.
For proof see his holed 208 metre 5-iron at Concord’s par-5 8th hole Saturday for just the ninth albatross in PGA Tour of Australasia history.
Also note his second shot at the 17th a day later that finished unplayable amongst tree roots and cost him a chance at victory.
Those two moments are opposite sides of the same coin and bare some similarity to another left-hander who’s done all right, Phil Mickelson.
After four days at Concord, Smylie’s mum Liz likely has some sympathy for David Feherty’s summation of watching Mickelson play golf: “It’s like watching a drunk chase a balloon along the edge of a cliff.”
Of course, a golfer can’t survive on big moments alone and Smylie also has that other crucial character trait of the very best: the ability to grind.
At Rosebud he was six-over the card through his first 14 holes and, under the circumstances, could have been forgiven for missing the cut and counting the week as a valuable learning experience.
Instead he went 22-under over the next 58 holes and missed a play-off by a single shot.
There’s no such thing as a can’t-miss kid but there are undoubtedly youngsters you want to watch.
If you haven’t already, put Elvis Smylie on that list.