Last year Jake Smesler helped park cars during the PGA Texas State Open.
A year later, Smesler, a 2019 Troup High graduate and Stephen F. Austin student, is on the verge of making the two-day cut to golf in the final championship rounds.
To attend the event at the Cascades Club in Tyler, Smesler had to qualify, and he did so in style when he shot a 4 under 67 and battled a sore throat in a PGA qualifier at the Cascades Club on June 30th.
But he knew he didn’t want to park the 2020 Texas State Open champion Mitchell Meissner’s car, he wanted to play golf with it.
“I woke up the first morning last year and was running late for work and when I got there I was like, ‘Man, I should tee off now, I shouldn’t be parking cars out here.’ It humbled me a little, “said Smesler. “It made me work more and get where I want to be. I’ve worked for it and I feel like I deserve it.”
The North Texas PGA (NTPGA) event is sponsored by Higginbotham Construction in Tyler.
“My mom (Mandy Smesler) actually works for Higginbotham, so it’s pretty cool. But I actually work for the NTPGA. So if I don’t make the cut, I’ll be working out here tomorrow,” said Smesler.
To make sure he doesn’t park any cars, Smesler is watching the remainder of Wednesday’s weather-delayed tournament today. He scored a 71 on Tuesday and a 1-under 69 on Wednesday. He is 77th but could make the cut. The defending champion Meissner is tied in 49th place with -2.
His family took him to golf. His father Mark Smesler is a golfer and his grandmother Linda Bickery bought him his first plastic club set when he was one year old.
“When I was 3 I got a Snoopy set and I loved it,” he said. “I got it from Russell Duval, a friend of our family.”
His parents bought him a junior set that did not contain a cartoon character.
“I played in an NTPGA from the age of nine and played it every summer and a few in the spring,” said Smesler as he waited for his friends to finish their round. “When I got into high school, I played in a few All-American events.”
He said winning the Junior Azalea at the Hollytree Country Club in Tyler was a highlight for him in his senior year summer.
“It was one that I really wanted to win. I had played in it for so long and Hollytree was always my archenemy and I finally won and finally conquered it so it was a cool experience to win,” he said.
But his best moment was winning the state championship in Troup in his junior year.
“We were all very close friends on this team. In fact, there is a photo of the team when we were 5 years old at the club championship. We’d all got out of the pool waiting for our fathers to finish. So it was cool to grow up together and states to win, “said Smesler. “Even in fifth grade, I played with the high school team and watched them and wanted to be out there. Troup went to the States 11 years in a row so you want to be a part of it.”
Smesler played basketball and golf when he was growing up. His mother was an excellent basketball player and taught him how to make free throws, the 3-foot shot.
“My mom played basketball when she was in high school and she said, ‘You’re going to learn to take free throws,’ and I’ve never missed free throws,” he said with a laugh after being reminded that he was now the 10-foot putt.
“The 10 feet are crucial for the pars. When you’re 16 years old, you hit the ball wide,” explained Smesler. “Attending a DI program at SFA has helped me get stronger and hit the ball a bit further, but mostly I do those 10-foot putts and the all-important par-putts that are needed.”
As a senior, he began taking lessons from PGA instructor Stetson McMillon of John Sikes Golf Academy at Hollytree Country Club, which he said also helped.
“It was a great experience playing the Texas State Open for the first time. I had fun the first two days and hopefully the cut will go my way,” said Smesler. “It was pretty cool, I had some viewers who knew me and the staff knew me and my colleagues for the NTPGA.”
156 golfers (including former Dallas Cowboys NFL quarterback Tony Romo and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel) and 12 NTPGA professionals compete for the title at the 51st Higginbotham Texas State Open. The wallet is $ 200,000. The best 55 scores are advancing and Smesler is part of over 60 golfers who have the chance to move on.
Smesler will work hard at SFA for the next two years to see where his professional golf career could lead, he said. However, on his home course, the Hilltop Country Club in Troup, he is known as the “Swing Doctor”. Therefore, he wants to teach the game to children and adults.
“I want to give something back to this game that has given me so much. I want to be a golf instructor. It’s my dream. I want to teach it to juniors and adults,” said Smesler. “People will come and ask for tips and it’s pretty cool. Golf could take me anywhere in the country and with the new PGA headquarters in Frisco, I could get my teacher certification in Texas instead of going to Florida.”
Looking back on his first two rounds, Smesler said, “I made capital out of the par 5s. It may be good, it may not, but I’ll live with it because I’ve worked the hardest. And if I have to park cars.” , I agree. After all, I came to golf for two days! “