Gruelling win for promising pro golfer
By TONY WHITE
FORMER Grafton champion junior golfer Russell Smith has won the 2005 NSW Mazda Trainee Championship at Coffs Harbour.
The 23-year-old Brisbane-based trainee professional won the prestigious event by by one shot over Bankstown Golf Club's Ben Manderson after a final round one under par 71.
Smith, a trainee under Gareth Small at Ashgrove Golf Club, finished one under par after five gruelling rounds when players completed 27 holes on the first two days.
"It was a great thrill winning. I've been playing pretty well for the past three months," Smith said. "But it all nearly came unstuck on the last hole."
Smith, Manderson and co-last round leader, Yamba's Adam Wiseman, played together in the final round.
While Wiseman had a day he'd rather forget "I nearly cried for him (Wiseman)," Smith said ? he held a two shot lead over Manderson playing the final hole.
After an errant approach and a poor bunker shot Smith suddenly found his lead and grasp on the Championship slipping.
Manderson was unable to capitalise as his 15-foot birdie putt slipped by and Smith held his ten foot sliding putt for bogey to hang on and claim the Championship title.
He picked up a cheque for $5387.
Born in Grafton, Smith started playing golf as a nine-year-old and began taking lessons from Grafton Golf Club resident professional Mark Harvison two years later.
By age 12 he was playing off a six handicap and played open pennants for Grafton as a 15year-old, the No.1 team winning the flag on two occasions.
In 1999, Smith finished runner-up in the club championships before leaving Grafton as an 18-year-old to further his golf career.
He played pennants with Oxley in Queensland for 12 months and was a member of the State colts for Queensland.
Smith worked with former Grafton resident professional Shane Hayman at Jindalee in West Brisbane and started his traineeship as a 21-year-old in Wynnum.
"I've got another 12 months to finish my traineeship then I plan to go to America and play in the Gateway events in Arizona," he said.
"Then it will either be to Asia or Canada for the tour school.
"In the meantime I'll play trainee events and get as much experience as possible."
Last year Smith won the Queensland Order Of Merit and is currently fifth this year after his latest 10th to Horizon golfer Michael Mulholland in the Blue Chip Portfolio Qld PGA Trainee Championship at Royal Pines.
Smith shot the final day's low round ? a seven under 65.