Golfer Scott Smyers was only 4-11 and 88 pounds when he entered Lakeland High School as a freshman.
“He was just a bit taller than his driver,” said his mother, Sherrin Smyers, who enjoyed a 13-year career in the LPGA. “But he had a good little swing.”
Smyers, now a 6-2, 165-pound Barry University junior, still has that good swing, which he will put on display Monday through Wednesday at the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Super Regional at Howey-in-the-Hills, which is just north of Orlando.
He helped his Bucs team win the Sunshine State Conference title for the first time in school history, qualifying automatically for regionals.
“Scott has come a long way,” Barry coach Jimmy Stobs said. “He has a lot of talent, physically, but he was a very aggressive player coming out of high school. He has learned that sometimes if your swing is a little off, you have to be a little more conservative.”
Smyers’ aggressive nature is a byproduct of the confidence he feels on a golf course. After all, he was virtually born into the game.
Besides his mom’s exploits, his father, Steve, was also a skilled player. In 1973, he helped lead the University of Florida to a golf national title on a team that included future pros Andy Bean, Gary Koch, Phil Hancock and Woody Blackburn.
Steve fell just short of becoming a pro — he missed getting his Tour card by one stroke — and settled into an outstanding career as a USGA executive and a golf architect who designs courses all over the world.
But even with that golf pedigree, the game hasn’t always been easy for Scott Smyers. As a Barry freshman, he failed to get off the bench. He had a 76.2-stroke average in the two tournaments he played as an individual.
“It was tough adapting to different courses, having to juggle school and college life,” said Smyers, a finance major with a 3.4 grade-point average. “I also went through a couple of swing changes. Getting through that year has made me a better player.”
Smyers started to see improvement as a sophomore, when he became a starter and improved his stroke average to 73.8 in 13 tournaments.
Last summer, he shot a 62 at the Eastern Amateur in Norfolk, Va.
At this year’s conference tournament April 15-16 in Dade City, Smyers finished fifth. He shot a first-round 74 and then switched his putter.
His father had placed a few spare putters in his son’s car before flying off to France, where he is redesigning the Evian Masters course.
One of those extra putters came in handy.
“The putter I had been using felt bent,” Scott Smyers said.
“I had hit 16 greens, but my putter didn’t feel quite the same. It couldn’t get any worse, so I pulled out my old putter from high school.”
On his first hole with his new/old putter, he drained a seven-footer. He had also reverted back to his natural grip of right hand low, and, just like that, his confidence had been restored.
Smyers shot a 4-under-par 68 in the second round and a 71 on the final day.
“That putter,” he said, “is a keeper.”
Now it’s on to regionals, where the top seven out of 20 teams will advance to the nationals May 20-24 in Hershey, Pa.
Smyers, 20, has used improved course management to produce five top-10 finishes this year, including a second place. His stroke average is a career-best 72.7, second-best on the team. His low round is a 67, and his national ranking is 24.
“Now I realize that even if you lay off (on a shot), you can make the next one and get the same result,” Scott said. “You just take less risk.”