Sarah Jane Smith during yesterday’s pro-am
Florida based Queenslander, Sarah Jane Smith, is enjoying being back in Australia for the first time in over two years and as the week has progressed at Royal Queensland, the 37-year-old is emerging as a chance to take back to the US more than just the memories of a break to see her folks on the Sunshine Coast.
Smith is playing the Fortinet WPGA Championship being played in conjunction with the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship in which the Karrie Webb Cup and a first prize of A$180,000 are up for grabs and with the withdrawal from the event of three of the original six LPGA Tour players in the field, she comes into calculations as a winning chance.
Last week, the pre-tournament favourite, Hannah Green, was forced to withdraw due to the difficulties surrounding border issues in her home state of Western Australia and just this week, two other LPGA Tour players and tournament favourites, Sarah Kemp and Stephanie Kyriacou, fell victim to the Covid testing which all participants at Royal Queensland are subject to during registration.
Smith, her fellow Queenslander, Karis Davidson and Victorian Su Oh, are, therefore, the three remaining LPGA Tour players in the field and, while she might have done well either way, her chances of contending for the title have improved.
Smith has played the LPGA over the last 15 years or so and although she has yet to record a victory, there have been several significant performances including a runner-up LPGA Tour event finish and a 5th place at the 2018 US Women’s Open.
Smith and her husband Duane, also a Queenslander, have been married since 2009 and now have a son of 2½ years, Theo. The opportunity to get back to Australia and combine a visit home to see family and to play this event was too good to turn down.
Smith’s lack of form in the US in 2021 resulted in her having to return to the LPGA Qualifying School in December where she just managed to regain her playing rights and on Tuesday she heads back to Florida where she will likely begin her season at the Gainbridge event in Boca Raton in late January as she looks to get her career back on track.
A win this week and the confidence such would bring would play a big role in doing just that.