All-District Golf: Turlock's Smith keeps it all in the family

TURLOCK -- After years of being "Sam Smith's kid brother," Paul Smith shed that title by winning another -- at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters.

"My brother has always motivated me to practice harder and play more rounds," said Paul, heading into his senior year at Turlock High. "Seeing the way Sam practiced reminded me of the effort that I needed to put into my game."

While making physical improvements to his game, Paul said that his most significant adjustments were mental.

"My ability to not screw up a round because of one or two bad holes, that's been the big difference," he said. "Some of my best rounds this year followed poor opening holes."

He bogeyed two of the first three holes at the Masters at The Reserve in Stockton, but rallied for five birdies and a 3-under 69 to win the title his brother won in 2007 and '08.

That led to Paul Smith being named The Bee's Golfer of the Year, a distinction Sam earned the last three years.

Sam Smith just finished his freshman year at USC, while Paul remains unsure where he will play his college golf.

"I'd like a school on a semester system, because schools on the quarter system seem to have constant tests," said Paul, noting the challenge of playing Division 1 golf while carrying a full academic load.

It's one reason he hopes Cal offers a deal -- the Bears have five recruiting slots open for his age-group. Another is that he prefers to play courses on the coast, with cool temperatures and even moisture.

"Give me a day in the mid-60s, Pebble Beach weather, and I'm all good," he said.

The plan is to play a dozen or so events this summer, getting in front of college recruiters at the key tournaments.

"This is my most important summer," he said. "I need to play well this summer or I'm going to limit my options."

That means additional time on the course, and following the advice of private coaches.

"I've had a lot of success because of my athleticism, but I need to become consistent in every area," he said. "It used to be that I'd take a lesson and follow it for a week or so, then I'd go back to my old ways.

"I can't do that any more. It has to be the same swing every time, the same approach. That consistency will make the difference in my game."

He'll also spend part of the summer focusing on putting and other aspects of his short game. By becoming more reliable around the green, Smith said, he'll be able to compensate for a poor day of driving.

"There are going to be days when a part of your game just isn't working, so you've got to be able to get those strokes back," said Smith, whose parents are Todd and Jane. "You can't rely on one part of your game to be there every day."

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