Interview With Mid-Am Champ Nathan Smith


By USGA
September 13, 2012

Q. How does it feel to move into a whole new upper class neighborhood?

NATHAN SMITH:  It's pretty surreal.  Any time you can say that you've done something that nobody else has, no matter what it is, sports or life or anything, it feels pretty surreal, and I played some great opponents this week in my bracket.  Honestly the matches not only today, I just kind of gutted it out, and just somehow was able to come out on top on a lot of them.  They were all so tough, I don't know how I did it.

Q.  Was it the a long week or the fact that you had established a record?

NATHAN SMITH:  Everything.  I think it was everything.  I think you can't help but ‑‑ you're tied to this championship, you can't just kind of show up and play.  Everything is ‑‑ yeah, I mean, it's tough, and everybody is kind of gunning for you, so you can't really hide from it.  It was tough last year making it to the final four and losing, especially when you made it that far.  You kind of hear about it every day.  Somebody is always asking me when is the Mid‑Am and did you win and all that.  And also with the emotions of playing Garrett.  He was awesome.  He was just so good, and I was just lucky to ‑‑ I just tried to stay with him all day, and I managed to kind of come down 18 with almost like a moral victory, just getting to the 36th hole with him.  That was lucky to come out on top.

Q.  After he makes the run to catch you and the way he's playing at that point, did the chip that he hit on 17 when it goes flying by, did that surprise you a little bit?

NATHAN SMITH:  The rough out here is just so thick.  I mean, he hit so many good chips today out of the rough, I never really figured it out.  Seemed like I was either trying to chip 7‑irons or putt or do something.  You know, he hit some great chips today and made it look easy all day.  It was a tough shot.  I mean, the greens were firm out there, and you had to play it perfectly, and actually it wasn't really that bad of a chip, there's just a false ‑‑ there's no backstop, and then it just slipped off.  Even a lot of shots, chips or putts or anything, they looked like they were going so far by, but you weren't that far off.  The pins were just so tough today.

Q.  The one stretch where he birdied three holes in a row, 7, 8, 9, it seemed like he just ‑‑

NATHAN SMITH:  He just kept coming.  He just kept coming.  I was talking with somebody earlier, it's almost like you're out there guarding Jordan.  You think you have him in the first quarter for four points, then he goes off for 28 in the second quarter on you.  I was just trying to keep that cushion because I knew he would ‑‑ he's just that good.  He's just that explosive, and they were moving some tees around, and I knew he was good for a couple birdies coming in.  I thought ‑‑ he did birdie those holes.  When he drove the one par‑4, I was lucky to make that 25‑footer to halve the hole.  Then he made the 15‑ to 20‑footer on 8 and I managed to make that on top of him, and I birdied 9.  I was just trying to stay with him, and I thought if I could kind of just hold serve on 14 and 15, the par‑5 and the drivable ‑‑ I couldn't do it.  I lost both of them, so kind of throw that plan out the window.  But I was just trying to stay with him.  I was fortunate.

Q.  You had a chance to halve the 32nd hole but missed the putt?

NATHAN SMITH:  I did.  I hit a good putt, and it just snapped off and caught a piece and ripped my heart out there (laughing).

Q.  We couldn't see that.

NATHAN SMITH:  Well, I was trying.  I was trying.  It's like the duck that's sitting on the water looks calm, but he's paddling harder than me.

Q.  Can you take us a little bit through 18, or 36 actually?  Your second shot, did that go a little further right than you wanted and did you have as much room as you needed to come over the tree at that angle?

NATHAN SMITH:  Yeah, the 36th hole I hit a great drive down the middle.  I was tired, I was cashed, he was coming at me.  It was all happening so fast.  That hole was dead into the wind.  It was just a different wind today.  That hole has been down hurricane all week, and now it's into the wind, so it was a tough hole to finish.

Yeah, I hit a 2‑iron just in the first cut, actually thought it might have got in the rough, then I just kind of made a gap over the trees there, I don't know.  It was a good yardage and I had a go at it with a 1‑up lead and just take it right at the pin and see what happens.

Q.  (Inaudible.)

NATHAN SMITH:  It just seems that each one has gotten harder, not only ‑‑ whether it's the championship match but leading up to it.  I played so many good opponents this week going through my bracket with Sean Knapp in that match and Tim Jackson and now Garrett, even all the other guys I played, Paul Simson right out of the gate.  I was just fortunate to get through.  This one was the toughest by far.  Each one has gotten tougher.  The competition gets better, and the breaks don't go your way and you have to make them.  I guess that's why nobody has won four.

Q.  You've played eight and won four of them.  That's a pretty good percentage.

NATHAN SMITH:  I feel the percentages are going to go the other way, but that's hard to believe.  Yeah, that's hard to believe.  I think when you're younger your window is limited, and I think you'll see that with Garrett.  I mean, he's going to be ‑‑ for the next 10 years if he stays amateur, he'll be a force to be reckoned with in this championship.

Q.  Why didn't you play in '04 and '05?

NATHAN SMITH:  '04 actually I was injured, I was out.  And '05 I got married if you can believe that.  I had a Labor Day wedding.  I had the wedding, but my shoulder wasn't quite ready.  I tore my labrum and had another cast on that.  I'm just put together, I'm just trying to get up the fairway (laughing), just kind of sewed me up and kicked me out there, trying to get it up the fairway.

Q.  Were you thinking about the Masters?

NATHAN SMITH:  I don't know.  That was on my mind.  I know that ‑‑ even talking with Garrett last night, I mean, just it's one of those you go to bed so early and you get a couple hours of sleep and then you wake up and you look at the clock and you start thinking what might be.  I'll think about it a lot.  Right now I'm really enjoying this and taking that in.

Q.  Talk about all the great players.  You've really put yourself in the pantheon of these great players.

NATHAN SMITH:  I don't know about that because those are some great players that are in a whole 'nother ballgame on center court.  I'm honored to have done some stuff.

Q.  You've won four of these, you've played in two Walker Cups.  You've done a lot of stuff.

NATHAN SMITH:  Yeah.

Q.  There's not that many great amateurs.

NATHAN SMITH:  Well, I know I have the best caddie that's ever caddied in Pennsylvania.  You're talking about some great players.  I'm just honored to be playing in this.

Q. Your dad hung it oo.

NATHAN SMITH:  He did.  He always makes it.  He's like a horse.  If you can get him back to the barn, that's when he's at his quickest.  I really didn't want to have to send him down 1 again.

Q.  Is he caddying for you in all of them?

NATHAN SMITH:  In all of them, yeah.

Q.  He's 64?

NATHAN SMITH:  Yeah.  Hard to believe.  A warrior.

Q.  Is he back on the bag for Augusta?

NATHAN SMITH:  Oh, yeah, he'll be there.  He won't miss it.  He'll get the big white jumper.  Yeah, fortunate enough to get that invite, but yeah, he'll be there.

Q.  Can you just talk about the golf course a little bit, how tough it played, especially when it got cold?

NATHAN SMITH:  You know, I thought the course today played tougher than all week, just because the conditions changed so much.  All week it was pushing the 70s or even yesterday it felt like it was in the 80s or maybe even mid 80s, and today was in the 60s, wind was everywhere.  I thought the pins were ‑‑ I mean, they brought out the championship pins today.  They were tucked.  You couldn't get them even ‑‑ geez, I chipped it on 2 off the green to try to get it close.  I just thought they were tough.  The rough was thick, wind was everywhere.  Like I said, it was a different wind direction so some of the holes that maybe you played well earlier in the week had all you wanted, like this week 13 was dead and downwind all week.  I love that hole.  Now today, geez, I'm hitting like 3‑iron in there or something, so it was tough.

Q.  Did your experience here playing the Western Am here a few years ago help you in preparation coming in?

NATHAN SMITH:  I think it did, just because I kind of knew ‑‑ yeah, it was nice.  The Western ‑‑ this would probably edge it out, but this place, and this is going to sound weird, on the 18th hole was my greatest ‑‑ everything has happened on the 18th hole.  I'll never forget it.  I was coming down the stretch in the Walker Cup race, and I needed a good finish, and we were on the clock, and we were doing the checkpoints and I had this 40‑footer and I'm ready to stumble and I'm just to finish the hole and I hit it too hard and it hit the cup, bounced up and went in, and I think I was second in the medal round of the Western, and I won a couple of matches.  I felt like that kind of got me on the Walker Cup Team.

And then the win on the 18th hole, that ‑‑ those are probably my biggest highlights in golf, especially to make that Walker Cup Team and now to have this.

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