A tale of two Smiths: Cam(den) Smith trying to match Cam(eron) Smith in winning at TPC Sawgrass

·5 min read

PONTE VEDRA, Fla. — The high school junior was bold enough to approach six-time PGA Tour winner Cameron Smith in the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse last March during the week of The Players Championship.

“Hi,” the young man said, sticking his hand out. “I’m Cam Smith.”

“Cool,” the eventual winner of the Players Championship said.

“Then I just walked away,” Camden Smith said.

But he wants the world to know something.

“I had the mullet before he did,” said the Ponte Vedra High School senior who shot 68 on Saturday to work his way into contention in the second round of the American Junior Golf Association Junior Players Championship, at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

He also has a flat-brimmed Titleist hat and the big smile. Time will tell if Camden Smith develops the game that Cameron Smith possesses but the signs are pointing in the right direction.

Smith, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, whose family moved from Windermere near Orlando to Ponte Vedra Beach earlier this year, birdied his first two holes on each side, then weathered a rough stretch late to finish at 6-under-par 138 and in a tie for fifth in the 16th edition of the First Coast’s Labor Day weekend golf tradition.

Jackson Koivun of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, fifth on the AJGA Rolex Rankings and an Auburn commit, had a bogey-free 64, including a back-nine 31, and is tied for the lead with Jeffrey Guan of Australia (69) at 8-under 136.

Koivun eagled No. 11 and birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to finish one shot shy of the Junior Players 18-hole record of 63, recorded by Logan McAllister in 2017.

“I feel like I played a lot smarter than yesterday [when he shot 72 with six birdies, two bogeys and two doubles, at Nos. 1 and 18],” Koivun said. “I gave myself really good opportunities to score and make a few birdies and even an eagle as well. I knew I had it in me after making six birdies yesterday and I kept the mistakes to a minimum today and it paid off.”

Carson Kim of Yorba Linda, California, had a bogey-free 68. Ethan Fang of Plano, Texas, birdied No. 18 to finish with the low round of the day at 66 to tie for second at 7-under.

Smith is tied with Jay Leng, Jr., of San Diego (71).

Camden Smith has already reached one goal: Making Ponte Vedra High’s lineup

Smith, who has committed to Mississippi State, has already accomplished one difficult feat in golf: he cracked the starting lineup for the seven-time defending champion Ponte Vedra High Sharks and shot a combined 4-under in 54 holes in his first two tournaments.

He’s got most moving parts of his game synching in the right direction. Smith is ranked 24th on the Rolex Rankings and this summer has finished second in the Western Junior Amateur and tied for fifth in the AJGA Jack Burke Jr. Invitational.

All that remains, he said, is to stay positive. He and his father Brent, who has coached him since he took up golf on a serious basis in 2019 after having success playing middle school basketball, stresses it to him on a regular basis.

“It’s one thing my Dad and I always work on, is staying positive,” he said. “I just used to get super-negative so just staying happy, staying positive and being thankful to be out here is the biggest thing for me. Don’t get caught up in the score. Just have fun and do it the next day.”

Smith birdied all four par-5 holes on short putts and birdied three other holes on putts of 10 feet or less.

He was tied for the lead after a 4-foot birdie putt at No. 4 (his 13th hole) but wasted two booming drives at Nos. 6 and 7 with bogeys. He was short of the green and in the bunker after having a 70-yard second shot at the sixth, and blew his second shot over the green at No. 7.

Smith rallied with an up-and-down par at No. 8 and a tap-in birdie at the par-5 ninth.

“Other than those two holes [Nos. 6 and 7] I was pretty happy today,” he said.

Smith went by Camden within his family for years, until he got to junior high school and his friends shorted it to “Cam.”

Shortly after he began playing junior golf on a full-time basis in 2019, he became aware of a budding star named Cameron Smith.

“We always joked about it, that I wanted to be like him,” Smith said. “This week I have a chance to do that. I’ve really admired his wedge game and putting. I try to mimic him and putt like him.”

Camden Smith practiced and played with a number of the pros who lived in the Orlando area, such as Charles Howell III, Brian Gay, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Sam Horsfield.

His one regret is that it might be difficult to get a game with Cameron Smith, since he was suspended from the PGA Tour on Friday when he played in a LIV Golf Series event near Boston, and among other things, lost his playing privileges at the TPC Sawgrass.

Smith said he won’t judge the decision Cameron Smith and Horsfield made in going to the LIV Series and remains a fan of both.

“I respect everybody who’s gone over there,” Camden Smith said. “You do what’s best for you and your family.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek