The moniker fits. Smylie Kaufman (actual first name: Carter) is one happy guy. Hey, If you were 24, with a Tour win and a bright future, you’d be grinning ear to ear, too.
You’re known as Smylie. Does anyone ever call you by your real name—Carter?
Some of my buddies back home still do. Most people call me Smylie, though.
When did you start going by that name?
My mom got confused between my brother, Connor, and me, Carter, so she went with Smylie and Luckie—our middle names.
You made a big splash when you played with Jordan Spieth in the final group on Masters Sunday, but it was your win in Las Vegas last fall that got you to Augusta.
Winning [the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open] was one of those days where everything clicked, a day that changed my life. It opened a lot of doors and gave me the chance to play in big events, to showcase my talents. It was a dream come true.
You shot a sizzling 61 in the last round to win, with a 29 on the back. How locked in were you that day?
I felt really prepared for that situation. My prep that whole week was really good. On the back nine, it was like I’d been there before. I knew exactly what to do [to win]. I felt I needed a good number going into the back nine to get some momentum, and I just played awesome on the back.
On Sunday at Augusta, Spieth’s meltdown made big news, but you had a tough day, too. You shot 81 to finish 29th. What did you take away from that experience?
How much patience you have to have on Sundays at majors. Patience is just so important. And you really have to lock in and focus.
ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE: WINNING ON TOUR TAKES PREP
The Web.com Tour taught me how to travel, to prepare, to make a cut, to handle rounds that were not going well. At 21, 22, I don’t think I was quite ready to handle those emotions. A year on the Web.com matured me, made me smarter, and helped me not get ahead of myself. That mindset helped me [win in Las Vegas]. I was able to stay in every moment and commit to every shot I hit.
After the Masters, you went on spring break to the Bahamas with Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Spieth. In a lighthearted tweet, Justin Thomas named you the MVP of the trip, meaning that you were the most fun to hang with. Did you feel honored?
[Laughs] No, I think I already knew that I had earned the award. It’s not about awards, though. I just try to bring as much energy every day as possible. Wherever that put me at the end of the week with an MVP trophy, so be it.
The four of you shared a lot of photos via Snapchat. You have a marketing degree from LSU. Is Snapchat a communication tool for you, or just a way to have fun?
I think it’s a way for people to get a little view of your life. I don’t like to disclose a whole lot. I tried to see everybody’s Snapchats, but it can get so overwhelming. I just got to where they could see my story, my posts, so that I could monitor it. It’s a lot of fun.
Who are the biggest fans of Snapchat on Tour?
There’s not a lot of them. It’s really just me, Rickie and Justin.
Is there a group of fans who have a lot of interest in your leisure time?
I think so. And it’s a market that, if you get into it early enough and if enough people start to follow you, is a great way to connect with fans and grow your brand a little bit.
In the Butler Cabin at the Masters, you told Jim Nantz that you were still driving an old Nissan. That prompted the car maker to give you a brand-new SUV. How’s your new set of wheels treating you?
It’s a good car. It’s pure. It’s got all the bells and whistles. It was cool for them to do that. Some buddies joked, “You should’ve told them you had a beat-up old Porsche!”
At the Masters, you said you still lived with your mom and dad. You’ve since moved out. What’s it like living on your own?
It’s good. I got a new house. I wish I was there watching it progress, but my mom’s doing a lot of that. It’ll be fun to go to my own home now instead of my parent’s house.
What’s the best feature about the new house?
The back porch. It’s got this huge projector out there, and the outdoor furniture is just so sick. It’s a good setup.
Back to your LSU allegience: Do you have a prediction for this year’s football team?
You have to set the ceiling at a national championship and go from there. It’s a make-or-break season, at least for [head coach] Les Miles. This is his best team. This is the year everyone’s been looking to for a couple of years.