U.S. Mid-Amateur Competitors Balance Life, Golf August 26, 2013 By Brian DePasquale, USGA

Pittsburgh native Nathan Smith claimed a record fourth U.S. Mid-Amateur title last fall. (USGA/Chris Keane)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Nathan Smith has won four U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships (2003, ’09, ’10 and ’12) and is a member of the USA Walker Cup Team for a third time. But even as he continues his distinguished golf career he and other mid-amateurs must find a balance between a career, family and the sport they love.

That’s the great thing [about the U.S. Mid-Amateur], said Smith as he spoke via teleconference at U.S. Mid-Amateur Media Day on Aug. 26. There are so many guys with unique stories and unique backgrounds. It’s one of the rare tournaments where the players are exchanging business cards on the first tee or after the match.

Smith and 263 other mid-amateurs (age 25 and older) will arrive at the Country Club of Birmingham to play in the first USGA championship hosted by the club. There will be doctors, lawyers, realtors, bankers, accountants, insurance agents and other professionals in the championship, which will be conducted Oct. 5-10.

Smith, a 35-year-old from Pittsburgh, works as an investment adviser in the city’s downtown district. His wife, Dr. Nicole Bianco, also has a full schedule. She is a clinical research scientist who helped develop a wearable defibrillator unit for cardiac patients.

The only time where I play is the tournaments, said Smith, who points to weekends as a time spent at home with family. I practice a lot; I hit a lot of balls, and a lot of putts and chips. I try to do something every day, depending upon the weather or my schedule at work.

Todd White, a Mid-Amateur semifinalist last year who joined Smith on the 2013 USA Walker Cup Team, must also manage his time as a 45-year-old history teacher in South Carolina.

Everybody was truly excited to have that new rule [two guaranteed spots for mid-amateurs on this year’s Walker Cup team] in place, said Smith, who is the 15th player in USGA history to win the same championship four times. It gives the mid-ams a shot in the arm to go out and play and try to make that team. The one secret is there are so many guys who can make that team in the coming years. They actually will be an asset.

Team Effort From Country Club of Birmingham

Don Plosser, the president of the Country Club of Birmingham, and Richard Anthony, the general chairman for the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, are charting the course of the host club’s team approach.

It’s another step in our long history and in our support of amateur golf, said Plosser, who said more than 400 volunteers will serve as part of a community celebration.

Anthony, an accomplished golfer who won the 1976 Alabama State Amateur, has been impressed with the membership’s enthusiasm. He cited the energy provided by both the leaders and volunteers at a club which has a rich history of champions and championships hosted.

East and West

Bill McCarthy, the director of U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, is in charge of setting up the two courses at the Country Club of Birmingham The West Course will be used for both stroke-play qualifying and match play, while the East Course is  the companion stroke-play qualifying course. Competitors will play 18 holes on each course, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play.

This will be the only USGA championship that many of these players will ever qualify for; this is their U.S. Open, said McCarthy. They expect to be challenged on this golf course and that’s what we will give them.

The West Course will be set up at 7,173 yards and will play to a par of 35-36—71. The East Course is a par-70, 6,471-yard layout. Both courses were designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1926.

Our whole concept is to make the player think, McCarthy said. When they finish we hope they pull every club in their bag.

Native Son

Hubert Green, the 1977 U.S. Open champion, was a guest speaker at U.S. Mid-Amateur Media Day. Green, who grew up playing the Country Club of Birmingham and resides in nearby Mountain Brook, said CCB’s courses presents many challenges with their thick rough and small greens. Diagnosed with oral cancer in the spring of 2003, Green has been in remission since undergoing treatment. He  won the Alabama State Amateur in 1967 and 1968, and the Southern Amateur twice. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.

Mid-Amateur Notes

The Country Club of Birmingham has hosted nine Alabama State Amateurs and served as the companion qualifying course to Shoal Creek Country Club for the 1986 U.S. Amateur … This will be the fifth USGA championship held in Alabama and the first U.S. Mid-Amateur conducted in the state … Sectional qualifying, conducted over 18 holes, began Aug. 19 at 66 sites. Qualifying concludes on Sept. 10 …  Following the two rounds of stroke play, match play will begin on Oct. 7 …   The 36-hole championship final is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 10 … Nathan Smith, the only four-time winner, is one of 26 players who are fully exempt from qualifying …  USA Walker Cup captain Jim Holtgrieve won the inaugural U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in 1981 … There are six U.S. Mid-Amateur champions currently in this year’s field, including Smith (2003, 2009, 2010, 2012), Austin Eaton III (2004), Randal Lewis (2011), Kevin Marsh (2005), Steve Wilson (2008) and Dave Womack (2006) … The champion receives the Robert T. Jones Memorial Mid-Amateur Trophy … Jones, the most accomplished of all amateurs, won five U.S. Amateurs and four U.S. Opens.

Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at bdepasquale@usga.org.