Thomas Smith is embarking on a new adventure in his young professional golf career.
The former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfer will begin play in the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School on Wednesday at Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Fla.
“It’s not much different than the first stage, but it’s more serious,” Smith said after his Monday practice round. “There are more [Nationwide and PGA Tour] pros playing. There are more guys you’ve heard of that I’m playing against.”
There’s a lot on the line this week for Smith, who has toiled on mini-tours for a few years — next year’s future.
If Smith advances from this stage — the number of qualifiers will be determined after the start of play — he will advance to the final stage of Q-School.
The top 25 and ties from the final stage earn full status on the PGA Tour for 2011. Those who finish 60th or better earn full status on the Nationwide Tour, and the next 40 earn limited status on the developmental tour.
“I’m not nervous, and I don’t have butterflies yet,” said Smith, who tied for 10th in his first-stage tournament. “I’m sure the butterflies and nerves will be there on the first tee.
“But I’m not trying to get too far ahead of myself.”
Smith will be playing the first two rounds with former UNC Charlotte star Corey Nagy and 2009 U.S. Amateur runner-up Ben Martin.
Former PGA Tour winner and Athens, Tenn., native Eric Axley and former Tennessee Tech star Scott Stallings are also in the field at Southern Hills Plantation.
“It’s a Pete Dye course, so it’s an intimidating course, but it fits my eye pretty good,” Smith said. “It’s similar to the Honors where from the tee it looks like there’s nowhere to hit it.
“I’ve got a game plan, and I’ll shoot as low and I can every day, and hopefully it will all add up.”
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...