COPA DE LAS AMERICAS
USA Off To Sluggish Start At Copa de las Americas February 14, 2015

USA Off To Sluggish Start At Copa de las Americas

Jan. 6, 2010

By Pete Kowalski, USGA

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Clichés aside, it was one of those days for the USA at the fourth Copa de las Americas.

Swirling, gusty winds and putts that would not drop combined for a frustrating Wednesday for the four-person American team at this biennial amateur team competition that includes countries from North, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean.

Nathan Smith, 31, of Pittsburgh, Pa., summed it best by saying: “I was pretty pleased with how I played but things just weren’t happening.”

Smith, the 2004 and 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, led the USA with a 2-over-par 74 at Buenos Aires Golf Club. Teammates Jessica Korda (75) and Peter Uihlein and Jennifer Song (76) were equally

 SmithCopaRound1
Nathan Smith's 2-over 74 was the low score posted among the four USA players in the first round of the Copa de las Americas event on Wednesday in Argentina. (Enrique Berardi/Argentine Golf Association)
dismayed by their poor showing on the greens, even when their ball-striking provided plenty of birdie opportunities.

The Copa de las Americas features three competitions – overall (men and women combined), men’s and women’s. The 72-hole competiton continues on Thursday at Olivos Golf Club, which also will be used for the final round.

After the first round, the USA was 10 shots off the pace of leader and host country Argentina in the overall competition. In the men's event, the USA is six shots behind Canada, which carded an even-par 144.

In the women’s competition, Argentina (146) leads Paraguay by four strokes and the USA by five shots.

“I had four-three putts and that’s not good,” said Uihlein, 20 of Orlando, Fla., an Oklahoma State University standout who went 4-0 at last September’s Walker Cup Match at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. “I made five birdies but once you get behind the 8-ball and start pressing it's hard to get it back. I was pressing and a little frustrated. Every time I made a birdie, I couldn’t keep the momentum.”

Added USA Captain Steve Smyers of Lakeland, Fla.: “They all missed a few putts. It was one those days. The ball didn’t go in the hole. You have those days in golf. They are extremely talented but they didn’t have one of their best days.”

All four USA players are coming off an outstanding summer season, which gives Smyers confidence that they can rebound on Thursday for round two at Olivos Golf Club.

“We just need to keep focused and stay patient,” said Smyers. “They have the total capabilities of shooting good scores. If they stay patient and focused, it might just happen.”

Smith and Uihlein were teammates on the victorious USA team at the 2009 Walker Cup Match.  Song, 20, of La Cañada, Calif., won two USGA titles in 2009 (U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur. The University of Southern California All-American also was the low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open and the individual runner-up at the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Championship. Korda, 16, of Bradenton, Fla., has had a short but very attractive golf résumé, including two appearances at the U.S. Women’s Open, where she carded final-round 69s in 2008 and 2009.

“They are tremendously talented and battled-tested players,” said Smyers. “Their record is proven on that. They are comfortable with shooting a low score and have it in them.”

Smith, the most experienced voice of the players, had similar confidence.

“We have a great team,” he said. “And I think any one of those other guys can be explosive. I really like our team.”

Pete Kowalski is the manager of championship communications for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or comments at pkowalski@usga.org.