It should never be this easy. You’re not supposed to top the EuroPro Tour standings one year and then do the same on the Challenge Tour the next. There should be at least a couple of years scratching around, for form and sponsors, getting ground down by all the travel and being out there all on your own.
And then there is the Jordan Smith way – this season he made nearly €240,000 on the Challenge Tour and topped the Money List for 14 of the 25 weeks.
In Egypt he led from pillar to post, in Kazakhstan, where there are untold riches, he finished second. He then won again in the penultimate event.
The 24-year-old played twice on the European Tour in 2014, on invites as an amateur, and he made the cut in both. Next season (he gets going in Australia in December) he will tee it up full time where he will join the likes of Justin Rose, his hero and fellow Hampshire Hog winner.
We spoke to Jordan (JS) and his long-term coach from Smith’s home club, Bowood in Wiltshire, the brilliantly named Simon Shanks (SS), about his remarkable rise to the top tier…
JS: Winning the EuroPro got me into all the tournaments. I was going to play the first six straight off and see how I got on and then I won the second event in Egypt. So I could then plan the whole year which would be three or four events and then have a week off and miss the smaller events and get fresher for the bigger events.
Obviously I was confident from winning the Grand Final and topping the Order of Merit on the EuroPro so I was looking to get near the top 15 this year but I wasn’t expecting to win a tournament or do what I did.
SS: At the start of the year Jordan was outside the top 600 in the world and now he is up to 111th at the moment. I started at Bowood 10 years ago and you would see Jordan around the club. His father, Martin, approached me to give him a short-game lesson when he was 14, he was seeing a lot of coaches and was getting a lot of different information so I suggested he picked one and fortunately he chose me.
JS: My strength would be off the tee, I’m pretty long and pretty straight and my long game into the greens is good. My putting has improved the last two years but we’re still working on that. I’ve been with Simon about seven years now. I wouldn’t say I’m technical, at the beginning of the week I have some drills and swing thoughts but then I go with what I’ve got.
SS: Jordan’s a great ball striker and takes things quickly on board. There haven’t been too many times where I’ve asked him to do something and he hasn’t picked it up, he is very sponge like. One winter, when he was about 16, he stepped it up in length and began driving the short par 4s and that made a big difference. Swing wise he has always been on pretty good lines and he has never had any big growth spurts where it gets quite difficult to teach and never got into any bad movements.
We work on helping his body to turn out of the way, sometimes he can be a bit slow with his hips and legs but, because he is very strong and has fast clubhead speed, he can get away with that. Long term though we don’t want him to rely on that. He works a lot with his strength and conditioning coach Rob Hobkinson in Yorkshire.
JS: I played on the same Walker Cup side as Matt Fitzpatrick. I haven’t spoken with Matt since he turned pro but if I bumped into him we would have a chat.
He has shown what is possible, we played a lot together and he is an awesome golfer. It gives you some confidence to see what he’s done.
JS: I signed up with Nike in 2013 so when they stepped aside it was a big surprise to everyone, it was the best stuff they have made for quite a while but I understand their situation.
I switched pretty much all my clubs before Kazakhstan, I got an old putter out and now use a TaylorMade driver and irons and Vokey wedges but nothing is contracted. The Nike driver is really good but I’ve now got 5-6 mph more clubhead speed and an extra 15 yards with the M2.
SS: He doesn’t seem to get too fazed by what he’s doing, deep down I think he felt like he could get to this level and has just let it happen. He has gone out there and sunk a putt when he needed to win the Order of Merit on the EuroPro. Then this year there has been the travelling all over the world and he has taken it all in his stride. You wouldn’t think he was a European Tour player when meeting him.
JS: A couple of the courses on the Challenge Tour are set up pretty easy with not much rough and the greens might not be firm or particularly fast, other weeks it is set up tougher. The winning scores are generally around 20 under so it is a hell of a good standard. It is a real learning curve, there is a lot more travel outside Europe and you are living out of a suitcase for a long time.
In 2017 I should get into most events, maybe not three or four, but I should get into Wentworth and the Desert Swing hopefully. Two players to look out for from the Tour would be New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and Bernd Ritthammer, of Germany, who won three times this year.
JS: I was second in Kazakhstan and picked up nearly double what I won in Egypt. It is a good event for those guys not around the top 15 or 45. After finishing runner-up there I knew I was safe to get my European Tour card. People said before I had done it but that nailed it.
Then four weeks later I won again in the UAE. I was more nervous on the Friday than the final round, I wanted to win but I didn’t have the pressure of having to win to get my card. I could just go out there and enjoy the final round and go up the last with a two-shot lead.
SS: When I’m not with him on Tour we use a website called edufii which allows us to send/receive videos with analysis and I can send some drills to practise. He is always doing his stats so we can see his strengths and weaknesses.
JS: My 63 in Egypt was my best round of 2017 and my best round as a pro on any Tour. I was going into the week confident with my swing and I had worked a lot with Simon and my putting was really coming along. I really liked the course, it was long and open, and was one of those weeks where it all came together. I putted really well the first day, I think I had nine birdies and an eagle.
JS: I was disqualified in Northern Ireland but it wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds. There were a lot of delays and we ran out of daylight with one hole to play and I was missing the cut by miles. I went into the office and asked what would happen if I didn’t turn up and they said I would just be DQd. I think quite a few players did the same.
SS: When he won the Brabazon at Formby and got in the squad for the Walker Cup I thought he had a chance. I was always concerned he was the 70-74 shooter, I wasn’t sure he would go very low. Towards the end of the EuroPro Tour in 2015 he put paid to that and then he started with a 63 in the second event of the Challenge Tour in Egypt.
JS: I got into golf watching the Masters when I was 12 or 13 with my dad and I live near Bowood so I went to give it a go. When I got into the England squads and the South West weeks I knew that things were going well and that was what I wanted to do. My first handicap was 14 at age 14 and I got down to scratch by 18.