KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Shane Smith trades recruiting job for Korn Ferry Tour card
January 24, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Shane Smith earned guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts via a T30 finish at Final Stage of Q-School. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Eight months ago, Shane Smith got a job.
About eight weeks ago, Shane Smith got another one.
The former led to the latter, but not in the way careers usually work.
Smith, who turned 30 in January, was frustrated with golf and his career to that point. He had had an unsuccessful run on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica in 2018, making just two cuts. Through early 2019 he was banging the mini-tour drum and wondering what was next.
“If you’ve been doing it long enough, everyone has those moments at least once,” he said. “I was at the point where I was frustrated with golf. I didn’t have the motivation.”
Smith went on 11 job interviews in about three days after he decided he was going to try to do something else with his life, and 11 days later he ended up getting a job as a salesman with Zip Recruiter, a popular American employment marketplace. He made it through two weeks and two days – one of those days was actually paid vacation.
He felt like he wasn’t qualified for that job, but golf had prepared him well enough. Struggling young pros run their own businesses, travel and develop skills that are attractive for some job positions.
But during his training he realized he was being taught all these things about something he didn’t know anything about. What he had been learning about, since he was 12, was golf.
He quit and moved to Virginia to begin working at the Raspberry Golf Academy under Patrick Maguire, who was Smith’s former coach. Maguire told Smith he could start coaching, or play and coach, or just play. Maguire wanted Smith to play, but he said he could start him out coaching.
Two weeks into the coaching gig, Smith took his clubs out of the trunk of his car for the first time in six months. He was, at the time, helping elite junior golfers between the ages of 15 and 19 who had TOUR aspirations. He realized all the things he was telling the good, young players were things he could apply to his own game.
“I got the love of the game back in those two weeks,” he explained.
He began slowly, playing once a week for a month. He was shooting low scores again. He had a mindset that was totally new and refreshing.
“The pressure was off. I was thinking clearly. I found the love for practicing and improving again,” he said. “I realized I didn’t have to grind it out for 12 hours a day. It was a perspective change.”
Smith managed to make through First and Second Stage of Q-School before coming to Final Stage in Florida, where he finished T30, on the number for guaranteed starts. He became a Korn Ferry Tour member for the first time, just eight months after sitting at a desk.
“It happened really quickly,” said Smith with a little laugh. “It’s been a long time coming, but the craziest thing was that stepping away from the game had allowed me to get to the next level.”
Smith, who grew up in Godfrey, Illinois, on the Missouri border, playing a 5,900-yard, no-bunker layout, went to a junior community college where he had a successful two years before transferring to Division III school Illinois Wesleyan – where he helped lead the squad to a runner-up finish at the NCAA national championship.
Growing up, he always wanted to play sports and had a successful run in basketball, tennis and soccer. But there was something that drew him to golf, the fact that he could practice as much as he wanted wherever he wanted, all day long. There wasn’t a restriction on him like in a gym or on the soccer field.
“From my small town, no one played golf at a high level,” said Smith, who lived on a 55-acre farm with animals like cows, chickens and pigs. “But between the house really being outside and that one golf course, I lived in both those places until my parents made me go to school. Playing golf was pretty much all I did.”
It was that original love for the sport that got Smith committed to improving and trying to make it his life’s purpose. And it took just two weeks plus two days to figure out that he didn’t want to do anything else. The two weeks at Zip Recruiter made him realize that, indeed, he did love this game.
He got to a point where he didn’t think he was lucky to play golf anymore. There was always a ‘yes, but,’ he said. Yes, but it’s so hard. Yes, but there’s a lot of travel. Yes, but I’m having to do all these things to make ends meet.
Yes. But, now Smith is on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I play golf because I have a passion for it again. I am motivated for it and I have talent for it,” he said. “If I hadn’t got that other job, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am right now.”