25 Jan 2024 | Professional golf |

Feature: Smylie's big decision

by Martin Blake

Elvis Smylie image
Elvis Smylie is chasing his first win as a pro this week at Rosebud. Photo: Gregg Porteous

Elvis Smylie, one of Australian golf’s brightest young talents, has made the difficult and significant decision to leave his life-long coach and join Ritchie Smith’s star-laden troupe as he continues the search for his optimum performance.

The 2019 Australian Junior Amateur champion and third-year PGA Professional contacted his previous coach, world-renowned Ian Triggs, late last year to tell him that he was joining the likes of Minjee Lee, Min Woo Lee and Hannah Green in Smith’s camp.

The 21-year-old Queensland lefty spent two weeks working with Smith in Perth over the Christmas break – his first extended period of instruction with a new coach.

The decision could not have been more difficult, albeit that professional golfers almost inevitably change coaches at some point. Triggs, who has worked with Karrie Webb, John Senden and numerous world class players over 40 years in the game, was his first coach from the age of just eight years old.

Smylie insisted on visiting his original coach personally with the news. “I think that’s the way to do it,” he said. “I think you’ve got to show a person the respect that they deserve.”

Down the track, he fervently hopes that their close relationship will be sustained. “It was a tough decision because everything that I’ve built in my game and everything I’ve learned has been through Triggsy,” said Smylie.

“The relationship moving forward will always be the same as it was.”

Smylie said he felt he was “stagnating” in his difficult early years on tour, which included a stint on the DP World Tour and some injury difficulties.

He is still seeking his first win as a professional, including at Rosebud this week for the Webex Players Series Victoria from Thursday. Thus far he has managed a string of top-10s and a couple of runner-up finishes, notably third at Rosebud last year and second in 2021, his last event as an amateur.

Like so many young pros it has been a battle, with his Christian faith sustaining him. “I believe in God and I know that he has a plan and it’s about him giving me the tools in order for me to do what I need. I want to go along for the ride and do what I can with what’s in my control and see what the outcome is from there.”

Smith is one of the world’s foremost coaches and was an obvious choice. “I’ve been on a couple of Aussie teams with Ritchie previously, and I knew his style,” Smylie said.

“His players have really good structures with their swings, and I think he’s structured with how he goes about coaching his players. He doesn’t sugar coat anything which I don’t expect the person who’s coaching me to be.

“He’ll always tell me the way it is, which is important, and he’ll always be 110 percent for me always which is what you want in a coach-player relationship.”

They are already tinkering, in particular with the set-up.

Smylie is focusing on using his body more in the swing, and putting less strain on his back for purposes of injury-prevention. At a pencil-thin 71 kilograms, he is desperate to put on more bulk.

“I’ve got quite a fast metabolism,” he said. “I’ve just got to eat quite frequently, especially in tournament weeks.”

He intends playing all the remaining events on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia season, hopefully finishing strongly in the Order of Merit to pick up any benefits that he can.

Later this year he plans travelling to Europe to take up some status on the Challenge Tour.

“I think as soon as I turned pro I went straight up to the European Tour and just got everything thrown at me at once," he said. "It was tricky dealing with that. Stepping back a bit, what has happened has been a blessing in disguise.

“It’ll help shape me into the person I’ll be in five or 10 years time.”

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