Logan Smith has made history at William Woods University and in the NAIA through his junior season on the men’s golf team but is looking to accomplish even more during his senior season.
Smith tied the highest finish in program history with his second-place finish at the 69th annual NAIA Men’s Golf National Championships at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. last week — David Houlding did as well during the 2015 event. This was after tying the NAIA 36-hole score record at a national championships, with a score of 134.
The two-time NAIA All-American Smith said he wanted to at least give himself a chance going into the national championships by focusing on two areas: putting and drive accuracy. He said had been playing really well up until that point; the Owls were coming off an AMC Championship win, with Smith taking home individual honors, earning the team an automatic bid into the national tournament. Smith said he still had room to improve if he wanted to win the championship.
“If I could do those two things at nationals, then I would give myself a good chance at winning.” Smith said. “Basically, going into nationals, I just wanted to give myself a chance to win on the final day. I went and have done that but just fell a little bit short.”
At the 2019 national championships, Smith finished 13th in the standings and then the pandemic cost the golf team an entire year of competition, including a 2020 national event. Smith said he stayed active during the time by practicing his game, as usual, but also working out some more, driving the ball farther and trying to limit the fatigue golfers can experience as they walk the course.
Smith said this helped him have a better season, winning five tournaments and setting a 54-hole program record with his 201 score at the Missouri Valley Spring Invite.
His work would start to pay off early during the first round of the national championships, when he shot a two-under-par to position himself in a four-way tie for first place. Smith came back the next day taking four strokes off his score to shoot six-under-par and setting the NAIA 36-hole record. He said he was pleased when he heard about it but was focused on improving his top first-round score.
“I shot 69 the first round, and I just wanted to build on that on the second day,” Smith said. “That was probably one of the best round I’ve played in a tournament. I was super solid. I took the opportunity when I got it and didn’t make mistakes.”
When the third day came around, Smith said he recalls the wind picking up and even seeing some rain. He said he knew someone would be playing well, despite having to hit shots into the wind, so he had to maintain his composure to stay in the hunt for the fourth day. He ended up posting higher scores on the front and back nines.
Smith’s third day started with an even par on the back nine, but his front nine — consisting of three bogeys and two double bogeys — drove up his round-three score to six-over-par,dropping him to second place.
For his fourth round, Smith was able to shave four strokes again off his score to finish with a two-under-par on the day, saying he played “like I did the first two rounds but couldn’t get any putts to drop.” He said he had a two-stroke lead with just nine holes to go, but the eventual winner, Morningside College’s Corey Matthey, hit three birdies within the last four holes to take home the individual title. Smith said Matthey deserved the championship after his amazing performance and Smith will look to improve for next year, stressing he didn’t do enough to win “at that point.”
“I have another full season to go out there and try to win more golf tournaments and try to keep improving even more,” Smith said. “Yes, over the last three years, I’ve improved a lot, but I don’t think I’m anywhere near where I can get to.”
He said he would be honored to finish his college career as “one of the better players at William Woods” but needs to make much improvement in his short game and course management — knowing when to play conservative or aggressive.
Smith said he has to remember he doesn’t have to birdie every single hole and taking a higher score on a hole can prevent those instances when he bogeys or double bogeys a hole.
Putting in more practice with putting, Smith said, even though he could never cover every possible shot on a course, could strengthen all areas of his game. This, he said, will be the key factor in him winning a national championship his senior year.
What would be “the coolest thing ever,” for Smith, though, is winning a team national championship. The Owls finished the four days at TPC Deere Run in a two-way tie for 11th, with an overall score of 1201. Smith said he and his teammates could learn from each other to improve as a team.
“Maybe, one day, we would have a chance at the national championship, not only individually but as a team,” Smith said. “That would be pretty cool.”