Former Gamecocks golfer reflects on third PGA season
Matt NeSmith (2012-2016) may be somewhat of a veteran on the PGA Tour, but as the former South Carolina golfer wraps up his third full year on the TOUR, he is still invigorated to improve his game.
"It's always about trying to get better," said NeSmith, who was South Carolina's first ever PING First Team All-American as a senior in 2016. "Everybody is getting better. You have to figure out ways to do it without messing up other parts of your game and taking things away from your game that you already do well. I've always hit my irons well, but I struggled with the driver the first two years, so I'm trying to figure out how to marry those together where you don't lose one and get better in the other. Just learning the balance between getting better and keeping the mindset together is a big part of it."
The North Augusta, S.C., native currently lives in Aiken, and was back in Columbia recently to play in South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer's "Birdies with Beamer" golf tournament. While he enjoys being close to Augusta National, there are other places on the Tour that excite him as well.
"I love Pebble Beach," NeSmith said. "It's amazing. My wife loves it. We go out there and it's a place that we've enjoyed the most."
Currently 77th in the FedEx Cup rankings, NeSmith obviously enjoys playing the game he loves for a living, but there is always pressure to be among those elite who stay on the PGA Tour.
"It's an extreme grind," NeSmith said. "My first couple of years on Tour, I looked at it more as pressure. I was a little more nervous going about it. I've been out there for three years now and going into my fourth. I know I'm good enough to play out there. I just have to keep doing the things that I've been doing. You don't have to reinvent the wheel."
NeSmith earned a pair of top five finishes this year and finished tied for twelfth at the RBC Heritage. He also finished T-37th at the U.S. Open after being in contention after 36 holes. It was his best career finish in a major.
While some PGA professionals have recently opted to look into playing for the new LIV Tour, NeSmith said he is not interested in such a change and is grateful for where he is.
"There's no interest for me to go over there," NeSmith said. "I'm solid with the PGA Tour. I've loved the opportunity that they present to be able to play on a tour that's established and very well connected. We have great tournaments that go around the world. It's always what I've dreamed of, so I'm happy to be there."
Although professional golf is a lot different than the team atmosphere that is college golf, NeSmith is glad that he came to South Carolina where he continues to enjoy a great relationship with Gamecocks coach Bill McDonald.
"I absolutely loved it at South Carolina," NeSmith said. "Billy Mack is still a great friend of mine. He was a wonderful coach while I was here. It really meant a lot. We went to a lot of places that were different than what we see elsewhere. I always thought that the golf around Columbia really prepared me for college golf, whereas where I'm at now prepares me for professional golf. I bet I talk with Billy Mack about once every two weeks. We still talk a good bit. I really enjoy keeping connected and watching the team whenever I get a chance."
NeSmith wraps up the PGA Tour regular season this week in Greensboro, N.C., and won't have much time before the next season begins.
"We go to the FedEx Cup playoffs for three weeks, and then after that it's two weeks off and we start the new season," NeSmith said. "There's really no offseason."
He wouldn't have it any other way.