Shane Smith took a swing at playing golf on the Pacific Rim. He learned plenty, savored a shot of success and now is set to continue it.
Smith, 26, a former standout golfer at Marquette Catholic, is continuing his quest to forge a prosperous pro career.
He returned home earlier this spring to compete in the one-day, 36-hole Oak Brook Open at Edwardsville and fared well. Smith carded a 6-under par 136 — with rounds of 67 and 69 — to finish second to Springfield’s Jake Erickson, the champ at 134. Edwardsville High graduate Chris Brant took third at 137.
“It was a quality tournament and there were a lot of good players in it,” said Smith, also a top collegiate golfer at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. “The greens were good and the weather was awesome. I don’t think I played that well, but it was enjoyable.
“It’s always nice to come home and I had a little vacation, too.”
Smith, a two-time IHSA finals finisher — 5th in 2007 and 11th in 2008 — for the Explorers, is mostly competing on the Arizona-linked Gateway Tour. However, he embraced the experience of a lifetime in 2015 and part of this year.
He played in the Asian Developmental Tour that took him all over the Far East.
“I got to play in Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore,” Smith said, listing some of the distant locations. “I went over there for an opportunity to get on a mini-tour.”
Smith added, “There were several events over an 8-month period last year, and then I played in 8 events for 4 months this year. It was really enjoyable and although it was something different, it was good for me.
“It was sort of a means to an end because it helped me with getting pro rankings. And was more about exposure and experience than the money.”
The experience was profitable in another way. Smith regained his health and got a firm grip on things.
“This is the first time in the last two years that I have been healthy,” he said.
Smith withstood rib and back ailments, then had to endure a left thumb injury.
“I tore a ligament in my left thumb and had surgery on it in St. Louis,” he said. “It took me a while to get back and play because it’s difficult to swing a club without your thumb.”
He competed in a couple of Arizona tournaments and won one of them, his second pro victory. His first one came two years ago on the Gateway Tour, also in Arizona.
This summer, Smith intends to partake in the Dakota Tour, which includes play in North and South Dakota.
“It’ll go from June to September,” Smith said. “I’m going to try and play in the U.S. the rest of this year.”
In addition to his prep and college feats, Smith made a name for himself winning local tournaments. He has prevailed in both the Gold Medal Tournament at Rock Spring Park in Alton and the Greater Godfrey Open at the Rolling Hills Course.
In fact, Smith is the lone golfer in the history of the Gold Medal event — dating to 1954 — to win it three times. He made it a three-peat from 2010 to 2012. Smith is participating in this weekend's Godfrey Open, a part of the Metro Cup Series.
This year’s 36-hole tournament plays out Saturday and Sunday at Rolling Hills. It’s expected to include more than 100 golfers, including defending champion Kyle Hogan of East Alton and 2014 winner Scott Redman of Godfrey.
The Gold Medal tourney runs Aug. 6-7. The Alton Golf Hall of Fame will hold its annual induction ceremony on Friday, Aug. 5.
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