By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Evan Smith came within a gnat’s hair of winning the West Virginia Class AA Golf Championship this past fall, finishing one stroke behind the champion. Friday morning the Bluefield High School Beaver signed a national letter of intent to continue his golf career at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C.
Joined by family, teammates, friends, coaches and administrators in the BHS Media Center, Smith talked about his choice of Western Carolina.
“I visited the school once and I really liked it,” Smith said. “They’ve got a good golf program, a young coach and I really liked it and they have the degree I’m looking for. It’s just a perfect fit for me.”
Playing this past summer in the Blue Ridge Junior Golf Tour and other tours for golfers his age, then advancing to the state golf tournament, Smith has had his ups and downs.
“My senior season was good, but I was a little disappointed not winning the state championship, but I had a good season,” Smith reflected. “I won some big tournaments and finished well in a lot of good tournaments, national tournaments.
“I finished second in the U.S. Junior qualifier and there were a bunch of good players there from all over the world. I qualified for a bunch of state events, Virginia and West Virginia and I had some good finishes in international tournaments, the International Junior Golf Tour and AJGA (American Junior Golf Association).”
Smith began playing golf at a young age and according to his father, Mike, it was Evan who got the rest of the family involved in the game.
“I think he got us on the golf course,” Mike Smith said. “I had never played golf and we live up close to the Bluefield Elks (Club) and I guess it’s a natural fit. He was little, we got him a little blue golf club, which he still has, and he started swinging it in the front yard. He’d meet me when I got home from work and it just evolved and we somehow turned into a golf family.”
Evan’s sister, Alex, is a member of the Concord University golf team and his younger brother, Jake, while not yet a golfer, is a member of the BHS football team. The elder Smith said the hard work has paid off for his son.
“It’s been a lot of work for him, to the point we’ve spent many a night encouraging him to do something else, take a break, do something else, but he has been dead set on doing this. He is very dedicated,” Mike Smith said. “He told me when he was 10 or 11, he said, ‘I’m not playing any other sports. This is what I want to do,’ and he did it. We are real proud of him, proud of all of them.”
Smith’s mother, Michelle echoed the sentiments of her husband.
“We’re very proud of him. “We’ve watched him since a very young age compete and there is no harder worker than Evan when it comes to his golf,” Michelle Smith commented. “Many times we couldn’t find him and we always knew to go look on the golf course and there he was. He is very dedicated and because of his dedication he has achieved a great thing.
“One of his goals in life was to play for a Division I school. He had numerous colleges looking at him and talking with him, and when he came out of Western Carolina he said he didn’t need to look any farther.”
As for his favorite golfer, Smith had one word to say, Tiger.
“I’ve watched Tiger my whole life, he’s my favorite. I’ve seen him (play) a couple of times,” Evan said.
And that degree program Western Carolina has that attracted Smith?