Smart 'excited' for Women' PGA Cup debut

Smart 'excited' for Women' PGA Cup debut


The Saunton professional enjoyed a breakthrough season, winning the Oceantee Women's PGA Championship, and will make her Women’s PGA Cup debut for Great Britain & Ireland in New Mexico.

Proving to be the best, both in her region and on the WPGA’s national stage, suggests it’s been a memorable year for Jess Smart. The highlight, however, is yet to

Winning the Oceantee Women's PGA Championship at Kedleston Park in July earned the 30-year-old a place in the five-strong Great Britain and Ireland team that will contest the Women’s PGA Cup in New Mexico from 24-29th October.

“I’m very excited,” she enthuses. “It was at the back of my mind when I teed off at Kedleston. “Albert MacKenzie, the Head Pro and my boss at Saunton, captained the men’s PGA Cup team in 2017 and really pushed me to go for it.

“He told me it would be a great experience, so that was in my thoughts, but I tried to put it to one side and concentrate on the two rounds.”

That need for concentration at the Derbyshire venue extended beyond 36 holes – an extra one was needed to defeat Suzanne Dickens in a play-off and win the tournament and the trip to the USA.

Not that MacKenzie, a PGA Master Professional, was surprised by her success.

“When I introduced Jess to Ping a couple of years back, I told them she was a future Women’s PGA Cup player,” he recalls. “And she’s done it at the first attempt.”

Neither was he amazed that the person who joined him four years ago held her nerve at the business end of the WPGA’s most prestigious tournament.

“Her demeanour doesn’t change from the moment she arrives at the pro shop in the morning to the time she leaves in the evening,” he adds. “I wouldn’t fancy playing poker with her!”

One of my goals was to play in the Women’s PGA Cup – I’m about to achieve that so I’ll have to think of another one

- Jess Smart - Saunton Golf Club & Course

Smart has a ready smile and engaging way with customers in the pro shop, but that sangfroid is evident on the course, as it was in the play-off at Kedleston and winning the PGA South West WPGA Championship last month.

To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, triumph and disasters are met with the same reaction. Celebrations, tantrums, expletives and despatching clubs into orbit are not so much endangered as non-existent.

“I try not to get fazed by anything,” she explains. “It’s a big part of what I’ve worked on for the last few years. I’ve looked at the psychology side of golf and tried not to let my emotions affect my game.

“I try and remain nice and calm and enjoy it. When I was an amateur, I went to see Karl Morris, the psychologist in Manchester. That was huge for my game – it took me to the next level. I was stuck on scratch then got down to plus two, almost three, after seeing him. I think it was all that side of it.”

The next level involved a four-year golf scholarship at Lynn University in Florida.

“I didn’t want to go to uni when I was 18, I just wanted to play golf. So, when the opportunity to go to Florida came up it meant I could do both at the same time – get a degree and play golf. It was a perfect location, we got to play lovely courses and practise every day. It was

“I hope my experience in Florida will help me in the Women’s PGA Cup. We played one event in Vegas which is pretty similar to Albuquerque where the match will be played.

“We’ve got a member at Saunton who grew up there and he’s been telling me the ball travels further because of the altitude, but it gets quite cold in the evening and first thing in the morning. He also says the local food is very good.”

All of which is far removed, both in time and place, from where Smart learned to play golf.

“My dad got me into golf,” she says. “He was a dairy farmer in Devon and sold the farm when I was about four or five, so he needed a hobby.

“He started playing golf and took me along. That’s how it started and since then my mum and dad have been very supportive, encouraging me and taking me everywhere. “I couldn’t have done what I have without the support of my parents.”

MacKenzie and Smart’s husband, Matt, are other pillars of support, although the latter’s input is more psychological than technical.

“He’s a rugby player and has tried a couple of times to play golf but it didn’t go well,” she laughs. “He comes and watches and caddies for me on occasions, although it’s more carrying the bag than caddying. But he keeps me positive on the course and is good for that side of it.

“And Albert gives me a few pep talks. I moved to Saunton after the first year of training at Tiverton and have been there ever since. It’s good fun, I love all the guys I work with and enjoy the job because it’s so varied. I work for 36 hours a week in the shop and enjoy that side of it, especially meeting all the visitors we get at Saunton.

“And I do at least another 10 hours coaching and look after the junior classes on Saturday with Kristian Mowatt. I enjoy that as well, especially with the little kids.

“In short, I’m happy doing what I’m doing, I have no ambitions to be a head pro. One of my goals was to play in the Women’s PGA Cup – I’m about to achieve that so I’ll have to think of another one.”

Author - Steven Carpenter

Steven Carpenter is the Content Editor at The PGA.

If you would like to get in touch with Steven about a potential story, please email


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