Few but fellow contestants hear much about Tom Smack, head golf professional at Caroline Country Club in Denton, Md., on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The confidence of Smack, scourge of the pro-am set, is quiet, not boisterous. He lets his golf sticks do the talking and often they say "lights out" for the rest of the field.
"I think I can win any tournment I enter. You have to think like that," said the 33-year-old who grew up in Ocean City, Md., thinking baseball pitching career before switching, to the humbling game.
In the last five years, Smack has won more than 30 Middle Atlantic PGA pro-amateur tournments and last year he was MAPGA player of the year for the second time. He finished second in the $10,000 Shannon Green Pro-am in April and Monday he won his first of this season at Hunt Valley.
The label "pro tour potential" is bandied aroun dabout a lot of golfers. For the long hitting Smack, who routinely reaches par five holes in two shots, the question never ceases. Why not try the big PGA tour, with its television, manicured greens and big bucks?
Although he has won scads of pro-ams and shoots low numbers almost weekly, 63 on his former home Hunt Valley course event, Smack os staying put, thank you.
Smack, wife Angie and 19-month-old son Brian recently moved into a new home near Caroline and Smack signed a three-year contract with the club.
"We're planning on making this a good home. We're very happy here." said Smack. "I don't want to gamble with my family's security. That was the decision I made. If you've got a job, you're making a good living and you're happy with it . . . "
Smack has always had a full dose of golf since he turned pro at Chartwell in Severna Park, Md., in 1967.
"The toughest thing for a young professional coming up is the first two years. You are an apprentice. You obligate yourself in the pro shop and you don't get to play much and your game suffers,' he said.
Smack said opportunity to free himself and play frequently as an assistant and the teaching of Ocean City pro Mus O'Linger and Columbia Country Club technician Bill Strausbaugh have helped his game mature.
"Tommy is always going to hit the ball a long way," said Strausbaugh, who now claims Smack is putting "some direction into his natural power," another way of saying Smack keeps his booming tee shots in the fairway more often.
Straubaugh changed Smack's grip and opened his stance in late 1973 and in 1974 Smack won nine tournments an dwas MAPGA player of the year.
"The thing about this game is it's easy to get yourself into bad habits,"said Smack,also considered a fine teacher."When pressure gets on you a little bit, you have a tendency to rush. From that point, you don't have any mental picture of what shot youare going to hit. That's why Nicklaus is so great. We never really hits a dumb shot. he has thought out the shot completely before he hits it and he hits the ball with a completely positive attitude."
Smack has never qualified for a U.S. Open but twice has been the local qualifying medalist only to miss qualifyingfor the Open in the final phase by a single stroke. "I'd rather qualify for the Open than win 10 pro-ams," he said.
Smack played in the 1975 national PGA but monstrous Firestone chewed him up and spit him out - 80, 77, missed cut.
The question keeps coming back. What about the PGA tour? "I don't think anybody dhould ever rule something out completely," Smack said. "You can put your foot in your mouth very easily."