Australian golf’s three newest professionals intend to make a strong first impression as they chase a healthy first pay cheque at this week’s The Players Series Sydney presented by Cisco Webex at Bonnie Doon Golf Club.
Familiar names and recent ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia winners are littered throughout the field that also boasts 35 female amateurs and professionals yet for Elvis Smylie, Jack Thompson and Doey Choi it represents the first step in what they each hope will be long and illustrious careers.
Thompson and Choi both left the amateur ranks immediately following the Australian Amateur at Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide in mid-February while Smylie’s announcement just last week generated headlines around the country.
Runner-up to Brad Kennedy at the inaugural event of The Players Series at Rosebud Country Club in late January – a result that would have netted the 18-year-old around $15,000 – Smylie said that performance confirmed his belief that he was ready to turn pro.
“Going back to Keperra last year, to win that (Keperra Bowl) by 13 shots in a high-class amateur field and then to be able to do what I did at Rosebud cemented making the decision that I’ve made,” said Smylie, who shot 63-63 on the weekend at The Players Series Victoria to finish one shot back.
“I felt so confident the week after Rosebud and to this day I’m extremely confident of what I’ve achieved and what I’m capable of doing.
“There has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears that has gone into it. It’s what I’ve wanted since I was a young kid and I can’t wait to make my debut this week and get amongst it right away.”
Thompson, too, narrowly missed out on a professional victory prior to leaving the amateur ranks, losing in a playoff to Anthony Quayle at the 2020 Queensland Open.
But it was getting within five rows of Tiger Woods at the 2009 Australian Masters at Kingston Heath that lit the fire within the then 11-year-old to drive him towards a dream of playing professional golf.
“I remember watching that and thinking, How good is it. All the gallery and stuff like that was incredible,” the South Australian recalled.
“From that day I always wanted to be a golfer. That reassured me that that was what I wanted to do.
“My mum Cynthia was six or seven months pregnant with me and still playing golf and that carried through. I always had a golf club in my hand when I was 1 or 2 swinging it around the backyard.
“It’s pretty much all down to her.”
“There has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears that has gone into it. It’s what I’ve wanted since I was a young kid and I can’t wait to make my debut this week and get amongst it right away.” – Elvis Smylie
Choi considered turning professional prior to TPS Victoria but as she had been issued an invite as an amateur was required to retain her amateur status to take her place in the field.
The Concord Golf Club member finished tied for 30th and equal-third among the women who made the cut and has already noticed some subtle differences from the amateur game.
Breaking the course record at Corowa Golf Club in her first round as a professional at the Murray River Open two weeks ago, Choi has come to realise the importance of each shot when there is money to be won.
“My pro debut, I just completely forgot halfway through that I had turned pro,” Choi admitted.
“I missed this short putt and I was like, These count now.
“Obviously I’m trying not to change too much and I’m trying not to think about money and things like that.
“I had a quick chat to Dimi Papadatos about it because he’s quite a successful pro and we’re quite good friends. I made comment about it and he gave me some really good advice.
“He said that starting out I’m going to be thinking about that and I’m going to be thinking of those poor shots or missed putts because of the money but later when you play big tournaments one shot could cost you $10,000.
“Right now it’s nothing and he said not to think about it and just play my own game.”
Smylie’s first taste of the big-time came as a 17-year-old at the 2019 Australian Open at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney.
He shared the putting green with South African Louis Oosthuizen and after four rounds was in front of Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and defending champion Abraham Ancer, flirting with the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes.
“Actually being there, being on the putting green with Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, all these guys that I had grown up watching on TV, to be able to stand alongside them and play in the same tournament and compete, that was a very special week for me,” said Smylie, who played in the tournament by virtue of his Australian Boys Amateur win earlier that year.
“I knew that was what I wanted to do as a career.
“I’m still playing golf but it’s the next chapter of my life and the next step for me to become the best player in the world.
“I know that time’s now.”
The Players Series is a new and innovative tournament concept developed by Australian golf’s peak professional bodies, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the WPGA Tour of Australasia – will see the country’s leading male and female professionals compete in the same field for the same prize purse.
The tournament (Thursday, March 4 to Sunday, March 7) is the second of two events that will see up to 144 male and female professional golfers play in a 72-hole strokeplay event.
Using scaled tees, men and women golfers will compete on a level playing field, with the winner to claim the lion’s share of the $150,000 prize purse.
Top image of Doey Choi: PGA of Australia.