For more than 90 minutes, anyone who lined up a ClubSport R8 LSA in the car park at the Royal Queensland Golf Club on Sunday would do a double if they noticed a gleaming cup behind the darkened windows.
“Is that The Claret Jug,” someone asked. Yes. Yes.
It was a modest if temporary home to a cup win in remarkable fashion at St Andrews in July by a golfer of the same streak.
He enjoyed his first weekend of fun in Brisbane for three years.
meat pie. put a mark. The Claret Jug visits the tiny Wantema Country Club, on Brisbane’s North Side, so his old golf mates can run away from the Cup. put a mark. Proud dad Des, a former Wantema club champ, had the handle to share a drink with his mates, too. put a mark.
He longed for all these things, and they meant the world to Smith.
“I knew I was home as soon as I got to Brisbane airport (last week), and the guy in charge of passport control said ‘Oh, that line,’” said Smith, smiling.
“The air smells different. It feels so good to be home.”
Finding his rhythm again in his hometown will give him a greater chance of winning the Fortinet Australia PGA Championship, from Thursday, than hitting an extra 100 practice balls.
If there was ever any doubt about the $2 million tournament headline on the beautifully conditioned fairways of RQ, it was clearly stated on Sunday.
It came to the enthusiastic applause of nearly 600 fans in the practice lane.
Smith and coach Grant Field didn’t have the numbers to break a Guinness World Record for “largest golf lesson ever,” but they felt something of equal value.
Middle-aged, fit men, young teens, young girls, golfers, kids dragged by parents… they all applauded when Smith showed up.
They all cheered again for his generous role as Field’s drill dummy in the 30-minute group lesson. They shouted again as he performed a Q-and-A on the microphone for the audience. None of the kids who lined up to get an autograph were left disappointed.
In this 90-minute meet and greet, it was easy to see how Smith’s profile had changed by the long haul. He may not have set foot on Australian soil for three years, but we all have TVs, read the news and sports fans were awestruck at his rise in that time.
Smith is hungry for more silverware. He already has two Australian PGA victories (2017 and 2018) from his actions at the RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast.
Everyone associates Smith with Wanteema, but Smith knows Royal Queensland intimately having played pennants for the club as a member and practiced regularly there in his youth.
Smith would like to win the Australian Open on the Melbourne sand belt, a tournament that is also sanctioned by the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and DP World Tour.
“I would love to win another PGA on this course as I played as a little boy,” Smith enthused.
“The Australian Open is what I’m really chasing. As an Australian, I put that close to the big slams as a tournament you want to win.”
Now-retired Ash Barty acknowledged part of her core fire as a fading tennis player when she won Wimbledon, her dream.
Field knows the driving inside Smith, who climbed to world No. 2 earlier this year.
“There’s still a huge fire to do big things…and yeah, I think his best is ahead,” Field said.
Smith relished the opportunity to share his Open Cup with his longtime golf mates at Wantema on Saturday.
“It was good. We played Ambrose Day to remember Jason Young, my buddy I grew up with, and we had a little memorial night at the club,” Smith said.
“Had a few beers with the guys I missed. I brought the jug with me. Everyone enjoyed their pictures and sipped from the jug. It was very neat for a small club like the one on the North Side to have that jug in the clubhouse.”
“Something these people will never forget.”
Smith only adds to the tradition of the old claret jug. He is not the first Open Champion to play on the Australian PGA.
Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke hit the 2011 stage at the then Hyatt Coolum with a classic story about the power of the pitcher. He was stopped for speeding in his Ferrari on the road between Belfast and his next event, the Irish Open. No Irish policeman would write him a ticket. They asked him if he had a clarinet jug and took pictures instead.
Smith discovers that several people recognize him or his mullet as he walks down the street.
“Sure, since last time, it’s been a little bit different. Few people know I’m going to the mall and things like that. It’s something I have to live with now, but the reception has been great,” Smith said.
The reception will be off the charts on Thursday when showrooms following Smith are likely to be the largest since Adam Scott played the 2013 Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines after being crowned Masters champion earlier that same year.