Catching up with Xander McDonald-Smith

Add Xander McDonald-Smith to the seemingly always growing list of Met Area players teeing it up in the professional ranks. During the last week of January, the Rockaway, New York, native and 2014 MGA Public Links champion navigated his way through PGA TOUR Latinoamérica qualifying school in Bogota, Colombia. A clutch final nine (which you'll learn more about below) lifted the Penn State grad into a tie for 11th and led to a playoff for the final half-season exemption awarded at the event. McDonald-Smith played steadily during the extra holes and secured status with a par on the second playoff hole.

Following his successful qualifying, we caught up with 22-year old McDonald-Smith for a Q&A:

MGA: How were you first introduced to the game of golf?
XM-S: My grandpa got me into golf. He was a Lieutenant in the NYPD and he worked out of Highway 2, right next to Marine Park GC. He learned to play golf there and eventually got himself all the way to scratch. He started taking me there when I was around 11 or 12 and I got hooked. He passed away a year later and I decided to stick with golf. After he passed away, the guys at Marine Park and the Brooklyn Golf Center really took me under their wing. I definitely wouldn't be playing professional golf if it wasn't for them.
MGA: What were the greatest lessons that you took away from your participation in The First Tee at Eisenhower Park?
XM-S: The First Tee was huge for me. I started when I was 14 and I still keep in touch with Mike Wade—who started the First Tee at Eisenhower—and visit them. The biggest thing I took from The First Tee was their core values. They focus on making you a better golfer, but more importantly a better overall person.
MGA: What do you remember most from representing the MGA in the 2010 Williamson Cup in Ontario?
XM-S: The Williamson Cup was an awesome experience. I actually traveled to Colombia for Latinoamérica Tour Q-School with Dylan Crowley, one of the other guys from that team. The biggest thing I remember from the Williamson Cup was the camaraderie—I met a lot of great guys that trip.
MGA: What led you to try qualifying for PGA TOUR Latinoamérica?
XM-S: PGA Tour Latinoamérica and Canada are two of the best ways to make it now. Ever since the PGA TOUR took them over, they give the year-end Tour winner a full Tour card and the next four on the money list a conditional card. There are other perks of playing well: if you finish top 10 [for the season] you get exempt into final stage of Q-School and top 20 are exempt into second stage. So both tours are great ways to make it and to develop your game. They mimic the PGA Tour, so you're traveling to a different site (on the Latinoamérica Tour, a different country) every week, so you get used to the travel and playing four-day events.

MGA: You played your final seven holes of the qualifying tournament in 3-under-par to get into a playoff and ultimately earn exempt status for the first half of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season. What were the keys to your strong finish?
XM-S: My final nine was just a testament to staying patient. I've worked really hard focusing on one shot at a time. I tend to get ahead of myself and let my mind wander. That’s exactly what happened in the third round [the day before]. I knew I was near the top of the leaderboard after my front nine, then I collapsed on the back nine—I played one of the worst nines I've ever played in a tournament. So, I came out the next day with the mindset of focusing on one shot at a time and the rest will take care of itself. Staying patient paid off. I was able to play a great back nine and prove to myself I'm capable of coming back after a rough round, even under all that pressure.
MGA: What are you looking forward to the most about competing on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica?
XM-S: I'm pretty excited about a lot of things. I get to travel around South America, which should be awesome. I'm also looking forward to competing in four-day events and getting the hang of it. I've played amateur golf, college golf and mini tours. Those are great, but it doesn't allow you to grasp the concept of traveling to play a four-day event like they do on Tour.  I'm looking forward to learning that process.













Strongest aspect of your game: Driving
Best round and where: 65 at Long Island National (2010 Lessings AJGA)
Favorite course in the Met Area: Friar's Head
Favorite course outside the Met Area: Pebble Beach
Music on the range: Eminem to the Rolling Stones to Frank Sinatra, just whatever I’m feeling that day.
"Good luck charms" you keep in the golf bag: I have some Penn State “Nittany Lion Paws” our coach gave out for under-par rounds in college. I’ve kept them in my bag.
Most common swing thought: Stay aggressive
Favorite golf memory: I hit a 2 iron through some trees over water at our Big Ten Championship last year to about 30 feet.  Then made the 30 footer for birdie, which may have gotten our team into regionals.
Preferred snack on the course: Lenny and Larry’s “The Complete Cookie”
Pre-round rituals or superstitions: Nope
Go-to shot: High draw
"Can't miss" club: 2-iron
Favorite golf movie: Tin Cup
Other hobbies outside of golf: Working out. Visiting friends from home and at Penn State. Watching science shows like Cosmos and Planet Earth. Going to the beach at home in Rockaway with our dogs.