One of the most gifted and fierce competitors to ever come through the LaFayette High School golf program will head south next fall to begin his college career as a Valdosta State Blazer.
Gage Smith signed his letter of intent to play for the Division II school on Thursday, realizing a goal he said he has had since “the fifth or sixth grade”.
“This is kind of a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve been playing golf probably since I was old enough to walk, but I didn’t start playing it seriously until probably the summer after fifth grade.”
Smith has placed high and won numerous tournaments with the Ramblers and on the junior circuit all over the southeastern United States. While at LaFayette, he has been a part of three straight region/area championship teams and was the individual region champion as a freshman.
He has two top eight finishes at the Class AAAA state tournament, including third in 2016 as a sophomore, helping the Ramblers to a pair of top four team finishes.
LaFayette head coach Tom Langford brought up that third-place individual finish when talking about his star player.
“The year he finished third in the state he was paired with Will Chandler, who at time was the number one junior amateur in the country,” Langford recalled. “Gage birdied the last three holes to get within one shot of the lead. Chandler still won the tournament, but Gage was right there with him every step of the way and that’s kind of what Gage does.
“He loves the competition. He loves the fight and he loves having the shot to beat your best. He’s not scared of the big stage. The bigger the stage, the better for him. The better players that he plays with, the better he plays.”
Smith said he chose Valdosta State for a number of reasons.
“I just like the people down there,” he explained. “(Southeast Whitfield alum) Matthew Cleary is there and I’ve known him since I was young and I’ll be rooming with another buddy, (Dalton High senior) Davis Smith, who I’ve been playing junior golf with since I started playing in tournament. (VSU) is a good program with a good practice facility and I think they have a great future.”
Langford said he was thrilled to see Smith take the next step in his life and golf career.
“I’ve really watched him grow up,” he said. “We always talk about the family aspect of our golf team and the way that we all kind of raise them. He’s been one of ours for a while now and it’s been fun watching him grow up.
“I always try to look two or three years ahead to see who I’m going to have at in high school and what are our chances of winning. When I knew we were finally going to have Gage up here, I knew it was going to give us a really good chance to have a shot at winning it all every year.”
Smith said that while his ultimate goal is to one day turn pro, he is considering studying history in college and perhaps will one day return to LaFayette.
“Maybe I’ll come back one day to take Coach Langford’s job,” he laughed.