After winning the FJ Invitational in June, Matthew NeSmith of North Augusta, S.C., received the greatest tournament gift of all: a sponsors exemption into a PGA TOUR event. NeSmith joins a roster of 155 professional golfers this week at the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.
Rarely do kids like me get to play in a professional golf tournament where there are grandstands everywhere, people everywhere and pros youve looked up to for years and years, said NeSmith, who will start his collegiate career at South Carolina the Thursday after the event.
With a resume that includes three AJGA invitational wins, as well as a win at the Azalea Invitational in March, the 2011 Rolex Junior All-American heads into the Wyndham Championship with a record to boast about, but remains humble and gracious.
I would never have expected to be here, NeSmith said. I mean I really wanted to be here and I worked hard to be here. Being here, it is tough to soak it all in, but thats what I want to do. I want to soak everything in and do everything I can to just have a good time.
Wyndham Championship Tournament Director Mark Brazil, who worked at the AJGA for eight years, began the TOUR events relationship with the AJGA in 2008 when he offered that years FJ Invitational champion an exemption to his event. Past recipients include Cameron Peck (2008), Justin Thomas (2009), Tanner Kesterson (2010) and Billy Kennerly (2011), who shared his experience with NeSmith earlier this week.
While most kids are busy packing for college, NeSmith had a whirlwind month that has taken him from Orlando, Fla., where he closed his AJGA career with a successful Wyndham Cup defense at Arnold Palmers Bay Hill Club & Lodge, to this weeks TOUR debut. Amidst the bustle of it all, NeSmith plans to cherish this opportunity and relish his time in Greensboro.
It is a wonderful golf tournament and Sedgefield is a wonderful place to have it, NeSmith said. Its a great opportunity for us to find out about a TOUR event.
Follow NeSmith as he tees off during Thursdays first round
at 2 p.m. ET, and at 9 a.m. ET during Fridays second round.