DADE CITY, Fla. — Brian Churchill-Smith isn’t interested in making excuses.
The junior with the Eastern Michigan Eagles shot a disappointing 80 in the final round of the University of South Florida Invitational Tuesday to finish 20-over-par at the event.
This was the Oakville, Ont., native’s third visit to the event, finishing tied for 45th during his freshman campaign and tied for 19th in the following year, so this year’s result (tied for 74th) came as a shock.
“Definitely a frustrating way to start the spring,” said the perplexed 21-year-old. “It was not my best tournament. I made a few swing changes coming out of the winter and it didn’t exactly click this week.”
It was a comfortably warm day at the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club, where the wind periodically gusted and the local avian population was rather vocal.
However, wind actually helps the third-year college golfer, a low-ball hitter, and he says the ambient noise on the course was a non-issue.
“You’ve got to be in your own little comfort zone, you’ve got to tune all that stuff out,” says Churchill-Smith. “I’ve played in front of big crowds and stuff before and I’m normally good under pressure when I have people watching…no, I don’t let any of that stuff bother me.”
Having said that, something actually was bothering him all day and even Churchill-Smith’s friendly and chatty mother, Janine, noticed it.
One of his partners in the round was apparently lacking in courtesy and he acknowledged it got to him a bit.
“I probably should have said something early on,” said Churchill-Smith. “He’s quite jumpy, he wants to get going and I’m normally a fast player myself, but right when you take the club back, he’s already walking to his next shot, so I might need to teach him about some etiquette.”
Mom was very forthcoming with insights, whether it be about her son’s career, the course at Lake Jovita —“[Hole one] is one of the hardest starting holes ever,” she mentions with a smile—or the life of a student-athlete.
Asked to elaborate, Brian says balancing golf and academics is basically about time management.
“You have classes from 9 to 12:30 and then you try to grab a bite before golf practice, but you really don’t even have time for that bite because our coach wants us at the course by 1:00, so it’s tough to manage sometimes.”
You’ll never catch him staying up all night to complete an essay, though.
“I actually work better in the morning, so I’ll wake up at 3:30 or 4:30 in the morning and start then.”
What makes this all the more impressive is how busy his golf schedule is.
He does have a little time off in Tampa with his parents, Janine and Peter, the latter of whom is a die-hard Montreal Canadiens fan.
“I’m staying down here in Tampa with my two parents, kind of a little vacation,” says Brian. “Spring break right now for my team. They’re going back for two days and I’m going to meet them in Raleigh at Pinehurst.”
That’s the Pinehurst Intercollegiate, which begins on Sunday.
Churchill-Smith is just over halfway done his degree at Eastern Michigan University — he is a Communications major and a Marketing minor — but he is also only about halfway through his hectic golf season.
“Spring semester, yes, tournament every weekend,” says Churchill-Smith. “This spring semester I think not quite, I think we only play five or six tournaments before our [Mid-American Conference] championship at the end of the year, but this year, we have one tournament less than what we normally do.”