Nathan Smith, 31, of Pittsburgh, Pa., won his second U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship by defeating Tim Spitz, 33, of Rochester, N.Y., 7 and 6, in the scheduled 36-hole final match at the 6,964-yard, par-72 Cassique at The Kiawah Island (S.C.) Club.
This was harder, said Smith when comparing his 2003 victory to his 2009 crown. I had just turned 25. I was still in grad school. I was a naïve kid. I thought this was easy. But you go through five or six years and you realize how tough it is. The first time is great but this is definitely up there.
In the morning 18, Smith, a member of the victorious 2009 Walker Cup Team and USGA Men’s State Team squad the previous month, won five of the first eight holes and shot the stroke-play equivalent of 3-under-par 69 (with match-play concessions) by making three birdies against no bogeys. He did not lose a hole in the morning 18.
I was really solid this morning, said Smith, an investment advisor. It’s such a fine line out here. Tim played really well (in the) morning but with the pins, he was just a foot off here or there. I was fortunate I was on and he was just a little off. I was able to take advantage of it and get off to a quick start.
Spitz, a reinstated amateur who graduated from Furman University in 1997, realized he gave Smith an early opening.
I’m disappointed that I didn’t play better, said Spitz, a municipal bonds specialist. I hit it just as good as him and he putted well and I putted horribly. I hit a lot of very bad first putts this morning and he made a few. My putter really let me down (in the) morning.
A key turning point in the morning 18 was the par-3 fifth hole, where Spitz’s tee shot rolled into the hole and rebounded out for a conceded birdie. However, Smith delivered a 35-foot birdie putt from the fringe to halve the hole and remain 3 up.
Yeah, I thought that was huge, Smith said. He had a great shot. It looked like it went in from our view. Then it was one of those where I just wanted to make a real good effort and get the putt there. As soon as I let it go, it was good. When it went in and stuff like that happens, it’s just meant to be.
When it looked like a little momentum was going my way, he stopped it, said Spitz.
Smith, who also won the 2009 Pennsylvania Amateur, Pennsylvania Match Play and Western Pennsylvania Amateur, was never threatened by Spitz, who won two holes in the afternoon 18. On the match’s 30th hole, Smith hit a wedge to within 6 inches of the hole after Spitz had landed his approach 12 feet away. At that point, Spitz conceded the putt, halving the hole and closing the match.
Spitz, who brought his wife and three young children with him on the trip, has accrued many local victories in his hometown of Rochester. En route to the final, he defeated 2005 Mid-Amateur champion Kevin Marsh in the first round and four-time quarterfinalist Pat Carter in the semifinals. He stressed that making the final is his biggest golf accomplishment without a doubt.
With his father, Larry, working as his caddie all week, Smith also turned to the comfort of wearing the same clothes (albeit washed each evening), eating the same dish at the same restaurant and even parking in the same space.
Smith was emotional about making another appearance in the Masters Tournament.
I’m speechless, said Smith. I don’t even know what to say. That’s hard to think about now. When I was down there before I felt like the luckiest person in the world and I can’t believe it’s happened twice to me.