After winning the FJ Invitational in June, Matthew NeSmith
of North Augusta, S.C., received the greatest tournament gift of all: a sponsor’s
exemption into a PGA TOUR event. NeSmith joins a roster of 155 professional
golfers this week at the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in
“Rarely do kids like me get to play in a professional golf
tournament where there are grandstands everywhere, people everywhere and pros you’ve
looked up to for years and years,” said NeSmith, who will start his collegiate
career at South Carolina the Thursday after the event.
With a resume that includes three AJGA invitational wins, as
well as a win at the Azalea Invitational in March, the 2011 Rolex Junior
All-American heads into the Wyndham Championship with a record to boast about,
but remains humble and gracious.
“I would never have expected to be here,” NeSmith said. “I
mean I really wanted to be here and I worked hard to be here. Being here, it is
tough to soak it all in, but that’s what I want to do. I want to soak
everything in and do everything I can to just have a good time.”
Wyndham Championship Tournament Director Mark Brazil, who
worked at the AJGA for eight years, began the TOUR event’s relationship with
the AJGA in 2008 when he offered that year’s FJ Invitational champion an
exemption to his event. Past recipients include Cameron Peck (2008), Justin
Thomas (2009), Tanner Kesterson (2010) and Billy Kennerly (2011), who shared
his experience with NeSmith earlier this week.
While most kids are busy packing for college, NeSmith had a
whirlwind month that has taken him from Orlando, Fla., where he closed his AJGA
career with a successful Wyndham Cup defense at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club
& Lodge, to this week’s TOUR debut. Amidst the bustle of it all, NeSmith
plans to cherish this opportunity and relish his time in Greensboro.
“It is a wonderful golf tournament and Sedgefield is a
wonderful place to have it,” NeSmith said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to
find out about a TOUR event.”
Follow NeSmith as he tees off during Thursday’s first round
at 2 p.m. ET, and at 9 a.m. ET during Friday’s second round.