It's all in a name for Australian Open bolter
QUEENSLANDER Cameron Smith is an amateur golfer. Of course he is, being the Australian rugby league captain and all. But Cameron Smith, the 19-year-old Queenslander, is also an amateur golfer - he just happens to be the only amateur left at this year's Australian Open.
After a three-under 69 on Saturday which included four birdies in a row, Smith is now not only surely the second-most-famous Cameron Smith in Queensland, but pushing himself towards the top of the leaderboard at The Lakes. Having started Saturday's third round at two over, Smith will now begin his final round at one under par - only one shot behind his golfing hero, Adam Scott.
''I've met him before actually and he seemed really nice, but stepping on the tee with him would be different,'' Smith said.
''I played the [Australian] Masters a couple of weeks ago and went out and watched him for a few holes; it was awesome.'' In fact, Smith has also met his namesake, the Melbourne, Queensland and Australian hooker, having played rugby league at Bray Park State School in Brisbane. ''I used to play rugby league as well, not seriously - just with the school team,'' Smith said. ''My school team went and saw the Origin team. I think that was his first year, actually. I was in grade five or something.'' Smith said it was ''pretty cool'' having the same name as the NRL star.
But golf was always more likely to grab his attention. He started following his dad around at the local club at age three in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, and by 11, was playing in his first competition.
He played Saturday's third round with his good friend and the now ex-amateur Jake Higginbottom. Smith outplayed his mate on this occasion; his round featured two bogeys in the first three holes, before he reeled off six birdies in eight holes. ''[I'll have] the same game plan and just go out there [on Sunday] and hopefully a few putts drop,'' he said.
Smith can't rule out matching Aaron Baddeley's Open win as an amateur in 1999. ''If a few putts drop,'' he said.
Another in with a chance of producing an unlikely win is Scott Gardiner, a former Penrith boy who also likes his league. Having met NSW coach Laurie Daley before the tournament, Gardiner, who will next year become the first Aboriginal golfer to play on the US PGA Tour, spent much of his post-round time on Saturday talking with South Sydney forwards Sam and Luke Burgess.
Asked whether speaking to those players was more of a buzz than his four-under round - which leaves him alongside Smith at one under for the tournament, six shots behind John Senden - Gardiner said: ''It's pretty awesome [meeting them]. I read about them every week.
''Phil Gould needs to get them over to Penrith.'' A more likely scenario is Gardiner lifting the Stonehaven Cup. But he was not overly confident.
''The guys at the top are pretty good. I don't see any of them coming back [to the chasers],'' he said.