Flying flag for Cameron Smith Junior Classic

Published 6:00am 6 December 2022

Flying flag for Cameron Smith Junior Classic
Words by Nick Crockford

Pictured: Ken McKay, who devised the Cameron Smith Junior Classic, with this year's first entrant Jayke Merrell, from Wantima.

The Cameron Smith Junior Classic (CSJC) will break new ground at Wantima Country Club this week – as one of the biggest junior golf tournaments in the state and Australia.

It will double in size with two competitions (rather than one), held over two days (rather than one) and 180 players at the Brendale course on Thursday and Friday.

And for the first time in three years Cameron Smith, whose career started at Wantima and is now one of the sport’s top players, will be there.

Smith is world ranked three after winning his first major, The Open Championship, The Players’ Championship (dubbed the fifth major) and Sentry Tournament of Champions.

He has since also won the Australian PGA for a third time, a second Greg Norman Medal and two months ago his first victory on the breakaway LIV tour.

Flying flag for Cameron Smith Junior Classic
Jayke Merrell, left, with his Wantima junior trophies presented by Cameron Smith, right and junior classic founder Ken McKay, centre.

However, the 29-year-old who grew up in Bray Park, went to Pine Rivers State High School and for a time worked at Redcliffe RSL, has never forgotten his roots.

Smith said: “It’s a tournament close which is close to my heart and I’m delighted to see it has expanded this year.”

The additions include a clinic he will host, with long-time coach Grant Field, for every player in both tournaments on Thursday morning.

There is also a new nine-hole event for 52 players aged 14 and under who do not have an 18-hole Golf Australia (GA) handicap.

The CSJC, for 128 players under 18 with a GA handicap, will see Thursday’s first round scores used for Friday’s second round tee-times - as in professional events.

Flying flag for Cameron Smith Junior Classic

Ken McKay, Wantima’s former junior co-ordinator who launched the CSJC in 2017, said the expansion had been three years in the making.

“Last time Cam was here (2019) we had a meeting – Cam, Ian Davis (Smith’s manager), Shane (Johnsson, co-organiser) and me,” he said.

“We discussed all things Cam Smith Classic. It was Cam who suggested doing a clinic for the players.

“To be honest, I’m not surprised at the numbers. The kids love Cam, we all love him and after he won the PGA everyone started sending emails about playing.”

However, by that time both competitions were fully booked and a Reserve list drawn up.

2021 Classic pictures - click through

“I think I’m looking forward to it more than the kids!” McKay said. 

“I’m so proud of Cam and how the event is received. Golf Queensland, among others, have given credit for the way it is run.”

McKay also praised the CSJC volunteers who will be “on the course helping the players making their day a bit more special”.

“And the ground staff ... they are super proud of Cam and showcasing the course. It’s like saying this is where Cam came from, come and have a look at it.”

First to register was Wantima’s 2022 junior champion Jayke Merrell, who tied for second in the A Grade last year with Taj Egea after both shot 71.

Flying flag for Cameron Smith Junior Classic
Cameron Smith, centre back row, on his last visit to Wantima in 2019 with the CSJC winners.

“I’ve known Ken (McKay) a long time,” the 17-year-old said. “He takes a lot of pride in the junior classic and when he said the entries were open I jumped in!

“I hope to go one better this time. I’d love to win. It’s my home course and I’ve always been a Wanti (Wantima) boy.”

Merrell, who will be up against the 2020 boys' winner Harry Takis this week, has won Wantima's junior title for four times, but said this year was extra special.

“The highlight was receiving the award from Cam and Ken. It was an honour. Cam’s an inspiration for me,” said Merrell, who has a mullet like his hero!


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