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Stonehaven Cup quest to engage Smith's attention

He's got ''cool new toys'' and a wedding to plan, but the Australian Open is the icing on Matthew Smith's cake as he prepares to make his debut at the tournament on Thursday.

Four years after leaving Canberra to pursue his golfing ambitions in the United States, Smith is back home and has gained a shot at achieving glory at the Lakes Golf Club in Sydney.

A former Royal Canberra champion, Smith earned his place at the Australian Open only this week when he fired a superb 66 to win the qualifying tournament.

More than 90 hopefuls were fighting for just two spots in the field and Smith secured his start.

Originally his trip back home was planned in preparation for his engagement party next month.

But now he's got the perfect distraction as he lines up next to Australia's top golfers 13 months after turning professional.


''It's going to be a learning experience, that's for sure,'' Smith told Fairfax Media. ''I'm pretty confident, but I'm not setting my sights on finishing in any certain place or anything like that.

''I grew up watching the Aussie Open on TV and it's a dream to be able to play in it … The main thing coming back was the engagement party, so it's all gravy after this.''

Smith moved to the US in 2008 after winning a scholarship with Texas Tech University. He finished his four-year stint last year and turned professional 13 months ago.

After his holiday in Australia, Smith will return to the US and play on the Canadian Tour next year with the aim of eventually earning a spot on the US PGA Tour.

It's been a long journey from junior star at Royal Canberra to professional golfer, but Smith says all that's changed is his new golf equipment.

His mother, Jenny, his best man and his groomsmen were to leave Canberra at 4am on Thursday so they could watch his opening round.

And to make sure he doesn't get overawed by the occasion, Smith's father, Paul, will be his caddie.

''Apart from having a few cool new toys, there's not much different,'' Smith said. ''I still try to play out at Royal Canberra as much as I can and my mates make sure I stay grounded.

''It's just basically at the end of a tournament you get a cheque now, which is pretty nice.

''It's not like I'm putting all my eggs in one basket. I'm playing pretty solid golf right now, I've played at the Lakes a fair bit so I'm just excited to see what happens.''

A host of Canberrans will join him in fighting for the Stonehaven Cup.

Brendan Jones finished a superb season in Japan and has declared his intention to be with the leaders while Matt Millar, Chris Campbell and Damon Welsford will also attempt to rise up the leaderboard.