Jubilation greeted the inclusion of rookies James Hamilton, Ben Taylor and Aaron Lougher in the Bay of Plenty team for next month's New Zealand interprovincial in Nelson, but Mark's Smith reaction was more relief.
The Springfield +1.9 handicapper was a borderline selection, edging into the line-up at No5, with Lougher the team reserve at Nelson's Greenacres.
``The possibility I might miss out was weighing on my mind a bit,' Smith said after the Bay team was finalised at the weekend's Garrard Shield tournament in Pukekohe.
``I wanted to be in the playing five _ going all that way to be reserve doesn't interest me in the slightest.'
Smith _ who led Bay of Plenty to their first interprovincial title in Whangarei in '02, where he was unbeaten in eight matches at No1 _ was under the pump the entire weekend at the Garrard.
``It wasn't hard to notice the scrutiny I was under _ it felt like the selectors were constantly watching me or following me around. I was under the microscope.'
The 28-year-old lost twice on Saturday, the first time since his debut eight years ago he'd had two losses in a matchplay quadrangular, but rebounded on Sunday to bag a crucial 3 and 2 win over Waikato's Richard Wright.
``My lack of tournament golf this year showed and I felt pressure on Sunday to get a win. It was a weight off my shoulders to hear my name read out _ it'll be my seventh straight interprovincial and I'm real keen to get to 50 [tournament] games for Bay [he's on 47].'
Smith's ball-striking at Pukekohe was pure, but his putting wasn't of the same quality. ``My short game right now is pretty average and I'm rebuilding my putting, although right now it seems like I'm having to take a step back to take a couple of steps forward.'
Smith has been a constant in all four winning Bay of Plenty interprovincial teams since his debut in '02, although with the year he's had, nothing was certain.
``It's been a funny year. With work and a month [holidaying] in Europe, I hardly picked up a golf club for awhile.
``I was pretty gutted at the start of the year to miss out [initially] on the Bay team for the Southland Invitational, although getting back in at No1 and nearly winning it gave me the chance to make a bit of a point.
``I was scratching my head at getting picked to play at No2 for the Garrard, although I suppose it's pretty hard to go from No2 to out of the team.'
Smith won 5 of his eight matches at last year's interprovincial at Mount Maunganui and rates this year's line-up capable of repeating the success. ``Danny [Lee] will be a huge loss, but it's a solid team and we're in with a good chance. Ben and James have earned their places and the good thing is everyone in our team are tournament players.'
Nelson could be Smith's last appearance in Bay colours, with the Rotorua-based website designer targeting a belated crack at the professional ranks at January's New Zealand PGA Q-School in Taupo.
``I'm keen to give it a go, just to play tournaments around New Zealand, but 50 guys are fighting for eight spots so it's a lot harder than people think.'