As a competitor, last week was difficult for Sarah Jane Smith. The 16-year LPGA Tour veteran had played in every KPMG Women’s PGA Championship since 2009, all but 2019 when the Australian was on maternity leave.
But Smith is a believer that everything happens for a reason, including missing last week’s major championship.
“I think it was a blessing in disguise,” said Smith, who hit all 13 fairways en route to a 5-under 66 on Thursday in the first round of the Volunteers of America Classic. “I had a little cold last week that my son [Theo] gave me. It is one of my favorite events, but I think in the grand scheme of things it was much better for me to be at home, work on my game and get a lesson I probably couldn’t have until the end of summer.”
Her swing coach Sean Foley set up a meeting with former PGA TOUR professional Skip Kendall so Smith could work on components of her putting technique. It turns out the lesson was very beneficial.
“We worked for like 5-6 hours one day last week,” Smith said. “I had a bit of something in every part of my putting to work on and then today that was the big difference. I holed a lot of putts. I’ve been hitting the ball nicely but making nothing, so that was really nice to see things are going in the right direction.
“Sean helps me a lot with chipping, but putting I have sort of been doing on my own. My setup was a bit askew, so I worked with Skip on some rhythm. Been using a metronome and getting more of a sequence going. I was all over place. It didn’t matter what putt I hit, I would take a different amount of time to hit every one. Just trying to get a better routine.”
Thursday’s performance was the first round in the 60s for Smith this season and her lowest score since a 66 in the second round of the 2018 Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open.