In 2009 at age 31, when many career amateurs are winding down their competitive schedules, Nathan Smith won his second U.S. Mid-Amateur to cap perhaps the finest year by an American amateur since Ryan Moore in 2004, when Moore won the NCAA Division I individual title as well as the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships.
Last year, Smith, an investment advisor from Pittsburgh, Pa., was a vital member of the winning USA Team at the Walker Cup Match at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia, then was part of a three-member Pennsylvania team that won the USGA Men’s State Team Championship at the Country Club of St. Albans (Mo.). While it technically wasn’t 2009, Smith then traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was a major factor in the USA Team’s January 2010 victory at the Copa de las Americas, an international team competition for North, Central and South America.
Smith’s victory at the 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Club ensured his second visit to the Masters Tournament, which again enhanced his treasure trove of golf memories.
Smith confirms the familiar axiom of improving with age, as he began his competitive career with a slew of local and regional victories before winning the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Wilmington (Del.) Country Club at age 25. His ascendance in the ranks at major competitive events took a sharp rise after that, and he became much more than just a ‘blip’ on the golf radar screen.
Smith’s life took on more aspects as he completed a Master of Business Administration degree and married in the years between his two Mid-Amateur wins. He remains grounded and unswervingly modest about his world-class game as attested by this Q&A that was conducted in early May.
Q: How special was winning the 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur and why?
A: It’s always special winning a USGA championship. For me to be able to win a second, I feel very fortunate. It was also special to win it to finish off the year I had. It was a special year. I'll never forget it.
Q: Tell us the best story from your second trip to the Masters.
A: Well, I was lucky enough to play a practice round with Phil Mickelson nine days before the tournament. We played a better-ball match. Phil played with a member, who's a very good player, and I played with his guest, who is a good friend of mine and also a very accomplished player. We never won a hole – didn't even sniff one. Birdies on par 5s with Mickelson don't get it done. We felt a little better after watching him play the following week.
Q: What is your competitive schedule for 2010?
A: Same schedule (as 2009). All the major amateur tournaments and sprinkle in the local and state stuff.
Q: What are your goals for this year?
A: I have goals at work, golf and family probably like everyone. As far as the golf, I just want to keep getting better and, hopefully, the success follows.
Q: How do you balance being a husband, a businessman and a world-class amateur golfer?
A: (Laughs) Well, day by day. I think that any successful person always has a great team around them. My wife has been great letting me play a full summer schedule and my partners at work have been very understanding and helpful.
Q: Your 2009 season was the stuff of dreams. What do you take from it? As a golfer? For a a life lesson?
A: In the 2009 season, everything fell into place. I was on two teams with very talented golfers and great guys to be around. I was obviously a little older than everyone else. It was something I've dreamed about and wanted to be a part of for a while and still do. Persistence paying off is what I take from it.
Q: Tell us why the Mid-Amateur is so special to you.
A: It’s the purest form of competition out there – working gentlemen playing a game. It's unreal when you think the winner gets in the Masters. Only in golf. Best game out there.
Q: What else occupies your time beside your family, your work and your golf?
A: You might have covered it all. (Laughs) Let's see what else: working out, taking the dog to the dog park, hanging out with friends and doing interviews with you.
Q: What is your dream foursome and why?
A: I would say my wife, dad and mom. That seems like the safe answer. However, if I had to have a backup I'd say Michael Jordan. I was a huge Jordan fan growing up and still am. I'm going to go out of the box and say Babe Ruth for our third. I'd love to see him hit it and meet him. Our fourth would be Bob Jones. I've learned a lot about him going down to Augusta and personally, would like to thank him for giving me two of the best experiences in my life.
Q: Is your father going to caddie for you again this year? If not, what will that do to your preparation?
A: He was doing a lot of talking to the pros at the Masters. I'm afraid he may dump me for a bigger bag. (Laughs). If he doesn't get one, he'll be back there again.