Smith makes stylish comeback after knee surgery

When Jason Smith starts the Gauteng North Open today, he won’t be thinking about Sunday’s triumph at the Free State Open.
“It would be a big mistake to start thinking about back-to-back victories at Wingate Park because that course warrants all your attention,” said the former SA Stroke Play champion after his practice round at the Tshwane layout on Thursday.

“This is one of the best courses in Pretoria in my opinion. It’s a fantastic risk and reward design, but there is a trouble everywhere. It’s tight and tricky and the greens are firm and sleek. You can go low, but you have to make every shot count at Wingate Park.”

However, the 22-year-old doesn’t deny that the victory five days ago is in the back of his mind.

“I can’t put into words just how great it felt to be out there again,” said the Golf RSA National Squad player. “To come out and win in my first start after seven months on the bench was incredible. It’s given me a huge boost of confidence and the belief that I can do it again.”

Smith went under the knife in June last year after he tore his meniscus and the anterior cruciate ligament during the Golf RSA National Squad tour to the United Kingdom. After a seven month lay-off, the TuksSport Golf Academy player made an impressive return to competitive golf with a three stroke victory in the season-opener at Maccauvlei Country Club last weekend.

“Shortly after we arrived in the UK, we were kicking a ball around one evening to stay fit and I felt something go in the knee,” he explained. “The physios over there said it was fine, but the pain and discomfort became excruciating, so I went straight to the doctor when I got back. I went for surgery immediately and I knew I was in for a long recovery.

“I only started hitting balls in December and I had no expectations starting the Free State Open. I was nervous about how the knee would behave and I didn’t know if I could go 72 holes. It was fine over the first two rounds, but tougher on Sunday, because we played 36 holes. I felt it tighten up in the final round, but I kept going. What a feeling to come back with a win.”

The Irene Country Club golfer opened with a seven-under-par 65 to soar into the lead.

He kept control at Maccauvlei with further rounds of 70 and 66 and a 72 in the final round landed him in the winner’s enclosure for the first time since he lifted the SA Stroke Play and Ekurhuleni Open title in 2014.

“It’s was the most the most unbelievable feeling to lift a trophy again; somewhere between relief and excitement.” Smith said. “I’m excited to play again and starting off with that 65 and taking it all the way to the finish line did a great deal for my confidence.

“I’m in a really positive frame of mind, especially with the SA Stroke Play Championship at Kingswood just two weeks away. I’m not going to win everything I play, but I’ve made a great start to build on.“

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