Local golfer makes senior tour debut at U.S. Senior Open

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South Bend, IN -- Most people hate the thought of growing old, but not Chris Smith.

For many, turning 50 conjures up thoughts of AARP, but for Smith, it means being able to compete on the senior tour.

"I played at Phoenix seven or eight years ago," Smith said. "Both guys I played with were younger than my daughter, and I'm like, 'Ok, how soon is it till I'm 50?' So I've probably literally been counting down for seven years."

After years of playing at the highest level, Smith turned 50 in April and qualified for the US Senior Open last month.

Suddenly, he’s the young one.

“You have to remember I am a rookie again," Smith said. "I felt like a 16-year-old kid."

And he’s close to home.

Smith was born and raised in the Hoosier State, and still calls Peru home. In fact, Smith will be commuting back and forth from Peru to Warren.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Smith, who spent nearly as much time Tuesday catching up with old friends as he did golfing.

"It was awesome because it's guys I haven't seen for a long time," Smith said. "And it's guys that I really did all of my professional golf playing with, and they're all a little bit older than me and they all turned 50 already, so I haven't seen them for a long time. It's been a great day."

Adding to the moment, Smith is scheduled to be in the first group going out when the tournament begins Thursday, and the hometown Hoosier will hit the very first shot of the tournament.

"It's a huge honor," Smith said. "I'm really excited to be doing it - I'm going to lose a little sleep, but I'm excited to be doing it."

Being the fan favorite though, has its drawbacks.

"It's really nice to get up in my own bed today and drive here and have the comforts of home and have the people I saw out on the golf course - that's the good side," Smith said. "The difficult side is that there are more demands that are put on you, and you really do not want to let all the people down that come to watch you play."

"If we were playing this out in L.A. and my parents were the only two there, it'd be a lot easier," Smith added. "They've seen me play good, they've seen me play bad, and I wouldn't have that feeling of trying to perform. So yea, there's a little extra to it, that I would like to play well for them."

But after waiting years for this moment, Smith feels he’s finally right where he belongs.

"It gives me goosebumps," Smith said. "It's great. It's been a long road for me the last ten years, and this is something that's like really fun, that I'm really looking forward to, that will be a really enjoyable golf experience."