Stuart Smallwood’s father, Cliff, gave Stuart his first set of golf clubs when he was only three years old. The golfing set came with five balls, a set of clubs and a putter. This play set of plastic golfing toys would eventually spark the interest leading to Stuart’s successful career in the sport.
Stuart’s father played golf at Cameron University, inspiring his son. Cliff mentored his son throughout the beginnings of his career, teaching Stuart how to golf.
“He’s my swing coach,” Stuart said. “He has been there every step of the way and will continue to be in the future. When I was three, he would take me to the putting green and I would just put. I loved it. That is all I wanted to do. My father and I would have putting competitions for hours.”
Stuart competed in the last tournament of his college career at the NCAA Championship Regional at Briggs Ranch Golf Club last May.
During the first day of regionals, Stuart kept himself in contention by posting a score of 73, leaving him three shots away from the cutline determining advancement in the tournament.
The following Friday his game showed signs of slight inconsistency as he finished the day with a score of 3-over-par 75. Stuart was eight strokes off the cutline. In order to overcome the deficit, Stuart would need to be very consistent and assertive on the course the next day.
Stuart finished the round with a score of 77 on Saturday, with an average of 75 for the tournament. Although he put forth a competitive effort, it was not enough to advance further into the NCAA Championship Regional.
“Unfortunately, I played poorly at regionals,” Stuart said. “During the final stretch of the course I was thinking about just finishing well and trying to advance.”
A month prior to the NCAA Regional Championship Tournament, Stuart won the Sun Belt Conference Individual Championship in Biloxi, Mississippi at the Grand Bear Golf Course. His victory secured him a spot in the Regionals.
“During Regionals I wasn’t really thinking about the game as being my last, but during the Sun Belt Conference I did because it was going to be the last game,” Stuart said. “It had not been a great year, but I wanted to go out well and I played three days of great golf and won. My college career has been a roller coaster, but it making it to Regionals ended my career on a high note.”
Though Stuart’s college golf career may be over, his career in the sport is far from it. This upcoming fall semester, Stuart will be an assistant coach for the Texas State men’s golf team while continuing his golf career professionally. He plans on entering the professional ranks in the next six years.
Stuart’s former golf coach from high school, Randall Lewis, still keeps in touch with his former player. The connection between Stuart and Randall is more of a friendship than a typical coach-player relationship.
“During high school, he was probably more of a friend than a coach because my dad was doing most of the coaching at that age,” Stuart said. “Occasionally he would offer some advice, but he knew I didn’t really need much. Outside of the course he helped me with life off the golf course, which was good for me.”
Lewis knows Stuart has what it takes to compete at the professional level.
“He is one of the most fierce competitors I have ever seen,” Lewis said. “In high school he played at a level beyond his years. He’s prepared his whole life for these moments. One day if he makes it to the masters and needs a caddy, I will be ready.”