Rifle’s Smith wins PI’s Male Athlete of the Month award
It’s a common thought in the sports lexicon that golfers aren’t “real” athletes, but this fall for Rifle High School, senior golfer Jacob Smith put that notion to rest, ripping off an impressive run of top-5 finishes this fall for the Bears, culminating in a fourth-place finish in the 4A state golf tournament at Raccoon Creek Golf Course in Littleton at the start of October.
Thanks to his terrific individual season on the links and his equally impressive drive in school, Smith was a tap-in selection for the Post Independent’s September Male Athlete of the Month award.
“I was actually pretty stoked to win the award, to be honest,” Smith said. “Typically you don’t see golfers get this award, so this is pretty huge for me. Most kids think that golf is one of the easiest sports around, at least until they play it. But once people play it they say it’s one of most challenging sports. I just want people to understand what it takes to play this game; it takes a lot of work between each shot, both mentally and physically.”
Last season on the course, Smith placed 32nd at the 4A state tournament despite sitting 16th after day one, but this year things took a major turn in the senior’s game. Under the direction of his father, Tod, Smith put together a complete season, turning in six total top-5 finishes, including a tournament win at Rifle Creek Golf Course, which doubled as the senior’s home course for the last four years. It wasn’t a change in mechanics or a change in philosophy for the senior that saw his game take off, it was the simple fact of keeping the ball in play.
“That’s something I worked on a lot this summer,” Smith said. “Last year I would just hit the ball all over the place, but this summer I worked on just keeping the ball in play and allowing myself to stay within my abilities to reach the green as quickly as possible. It certainly paid off this year.”
That it did, as the senior surprised even himself, coming in fourth overall at Raccoon Creek with a two-day total of 152 (+8).
“That was most memorable for me because walking off the 18th green I had no idea where I was,” Smith said. “But when my dad showed me where I was on the leaderboard, it was a special moment with him.”
Based off of his terrific year and career at Rifle, Smith is soon expected to lock up a spot with Colorado Mesa University’s golf team, which is something that is special to Smith and his family, considering his father played golf at CMU during his time in college.
Although he hasn’t completely decided on CMU — or any school for that matter, Smith is looking closely at CMU thanks to its proximity to Rifle and the history the school has with his family.
Away from the game, Smith’s favorite subject in school at Rifle High School is math/pre-calculus.
“It’s pretty challenging, which I like,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of steps and stuff you have to go through just to get one problem right, which is sort of like the game of golf.”
Although the senior likes math/pre-calculus currently, biology/pre-med is what Smith appears focused on as a major in college, but as to what he does with that degree is up in the air for him.
Away from the game, Smith has put an emphasis on spending time with friends, considering it’s his final year at Rifle. Being away from the game and school with friends has placed more of an emphasis on the game of golf, ironically, allowing him to focus in on the game.
“Competing with the best players is what keeps me in the game mentally the most,” Smith said. “Competing for a championship and being that close has driven me more and more because it’s the highest individual honor you can achieve in this game.”