After playing a practice round last Monday, Todd Smith of Rock Hollow GC declared that the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Springs Resort was one of, if not the best, courses that he had ever played. After capturing a playoff victory over Brett Melton of Country Oaks GC to capture the 2009 Indiana PGA Professionals Championship, Smith’s love for the French Lick venue is sure to grow.
“It’s one of the hardest, and best, courses that I have ever played,” exclaimed Smith after making birdie on the second playoff hole to capture his sixth Indiana PGA Professionals Championship. Smith’s 9-over par total was the highest winning total in recent memory. Most of the field of 83 Indiana PGA Professionals struggled on the 7,000 yard layout August 18, with the average score being over 82 for the two rounds played on the Pete Dye Course.
It was a sweet win for Smith, who has played very little golf this summer. “Seven or eight years ago I knew where my shots were going, and I don’t have that now,” he explained. “But I just kept telling myself not to give up.” A five-time champion, Smith’s last Professional Championship title was in 2001, preceded by 1999, ’97, ’96 and ’94.
was also a meaningful win for Smith due to what he and his family have endured
this past summer with the passing of his sister-in-law, Beth Smith, in a tragic
automobile accident. “This win means a lot to me. I really wanted this win for
[my wife] Claire and [my brother] Chris and my whole family,” he said. “Claire
has always stuck by me no matter what and told me that I am still good enough
to compete, and I want Chris to know that he can go out and win again too.”
Chris, Beth's husband, is a Nationwide and PGA Tour player who will take the
rest of the year off to take care of his family.
The playoff that gave the win to the Smith family began at the 10th hole where both players flew right off the tee down a steep hill into the rough. Melton hit first and stuck it to 18 feet, but Smith placed his closer. Neither player was able to convert the birdie, and they moved to the 11th tee. Smith found the rough left of the fairway, but Melton trickled down into the right fairway bunker. He caught his bunker shot heavy and left himself a 30-foot chip and little green to work with. Smith hit his approach to ten feet, drained the putt and gave a huge fist pump to signal victory.
Smith and Melton will compete again in 2010 at French Lick Resort in the PGA National Professional Championship along with four other PGA Members from the Indiana Section. Those players are 2009 Assistant Champion Blair Shadday of Purgatory GC, 2008 Professional Champion Jim Ousley of Tippecanoe CC, Brad Fellers of Indiana National GC and Chad Jones of The Sagamore Club. In order to prepare for the national competition, where golf carts aren’t permitted, Smith plans to get in better shape to walk the hilly terrain of southern Indiana. His optimism comes from knowing that he knows the course better than players from around the country and that he doesn’t have to recover from a long plane ride or travel time. “I’m really looking forward to it,” Smith concluded.