Interview With 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Champions Nathan Smith, Todd White

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Nathan Smith and Todd White here into the media center. 7 and 5 winners in the championship match of the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, beating Sherrill Britt and Greg Earnhardt. First of all, guys, congratulations. For Nathan, that's his fifth USGA championship, adding on to four U.S. Mid-Amateur titles as well as the 2009 USGA Men's State Team Championship; a three-time Walker Cupper, and competing in his 33rd USGA championship; and Todd his first USGA championship, and semifinalist in the 2012 Mid-Am before this, and playing in his 16th USGA Championship. Both were members of the 2013 Walker Cup team. Guys, great start to the match winning the first four holes and kind of poured it on from there. Todd, you first, talk a little about how that match started and really put you in the driver's seat early?

TODD WHITE: Yeah, it did. Getting up early was a big, big help. It freed us up to, not really take chances, because you can't do that here, but just knowing that we could play steady golf. It's difficult to make birdies out there, so it was going to be tough for them to catch up.

Q. Nathan, your birdie on the third hole?
NATHAN SMITH: Yes, I was saying to Todd, if I knew he was going to play that good on one and two and I was going to play that bad, I should have just met him on 3 tee. I wouldn't have to walk down one and come back up on 2. But, you know, he played great today, and I managed to help him out here and there.

Q. Todd, closing it out with a conceded birdie on the last hole. Just take us through that shot in there on the 13th that finished it off?

TODD WHITE: I was debating between 6- and 7-iron, and during the course of the week I guess my partner here learned my game well enough. He said hit the 7. I said, Are you sure? He said, hit the 7, and I hit the 7. Three feet, and then here we are.

Q. That was the right club. When you jump up early like that, 4-up through four. Does your strategy change the all? Do you get a little more conservative or do you still try to just play your game?

NATHAN SMITH: I think at that point usually having holes is just as important as winning, and you don't want to go backwards. You just kind of want to go forwards and just kind of keep it right there if you can. Easier said than done against a team like that, but that was kind of our mindset.

Q. You guys had an amazing run of consistency. You bogey the second hole of the first match and then after that 76 consecutive holes with no bogeys, all the way up until the end, and you made 19 birdies in that stretch. You probably didn't know the numbers, but you knew you were playing pretty well and pretty consistent. If there is one key to that, what was it? Nathan?

NATHAN SMITH: I didn't know it was that many holes. I was afraid if we made one bogey we were going to make like four in a row, so I didn't want to think about it too much. But.

TODD WHITE: We did that in stroke play.

NATHAN SMITH: We did do that. We were 3-over or whatever in stroke play. But it just seemed like it was meant to be. If I was out of a hole, it seemed Todd would play great and vice versa. It was that kind of week for us, at least through Match Play.

Q. This morning you guys had a great match, a tightly contested match against a couple of 18-year-olds, Austin Connelly and Sam Burns, which you won 2 and 1. Never trailed, but close throughout, and then Todd hit that great putt on the 17th to win it. Talk about that and some of the emotions you felt after that putt on 17?

TODD WHITE: Just trying to help my partner out. He was in there about 20 feet, and I think I was 40 feet. So I told him I'm going to keep this on the high side, because if you lose that one low, you've got eight feet coming back. It looked good a long time, and to see it disappear, it was like, whew, we're in the finals now.

NATHAN SMITH: You were thinking that. I was thinking we don't have to walk up 18. We can get in the car and ride. I wasn't thinking about the finals. I was thinking we can sit down.

Q. You actually never played the 18th hole this week in Match Play, correct?

NATHAN SMITH: We did not.

TODD WHITE: No. No.

Q. So you didn't see that similar hole location to the 2012 U.S. Open.
NATHAN SMITH: It looked hard.

TODD WHITE: You want to replay it?

Q. Have you guys played Olympic before? I imagine you watched it on TV and the Open. Having played it as often as you have, what stood out to you?

NATHAN SMITH: I played in the '07 Amateur here, and it's just such a tough course. I mean, it challenges your game in every way. You have to hit, I'm sure if you played this course a lot, you have to become just a great iron player to play it. Great driver of the ball, and then the greens were just so firm. It just has everything, and it's tough. You know, it's a tough course to play. I played a little better than I did in '07, but it was really, really a test of golf.

TODD WHITE: And I was out here 16, 17 years ago, and no tournament, just happened to be able to play here just one round, and to be able to play Olympic with a USGA set-up, it's hard. It's hard.

Q. Todd, tomorrow morning I guess you're going to have a red eye tonight. What time do you get to class tomorrow? What are you teaching?

TODD WHITE: Let's see. What am I teaching tomorrow? U.S. government class. I should get to school probably around 10 o'clock with my connection in from Atlanta. So I told them I said I'll be there about 10:00 o'clock.

Q. Are you going to be a little blurry-eyed? Obviously, you have a little something you can bring to the class?

TODD WHITE: A lot of my students don't play golf. They don't know much about golf. They know that I play golf. Again, a lot of times they'll ask me and say, when do you have another tournament? And I know they're asking me because they want a substitute (laughing). That's the only reason they're asking. But, no, I'll be in the classroom tomorrow whether they like it or not, about 10 o'clock.

Q. What grade is this?

TODD WHITE: Grades 10 through 12.

Q. Is the principal a golfer?

TODD WHITE: Yeah, he is. A pretty good golfer too.

Q. What is the school?

TODD WHITE: Spartanburg High School.

Q. What was your send-off message from your students? Did you guys talk about this at all?

TODD WHITE: No, no. I don't talk a lot about golf in the classroom. But the one thing that I do try to do is a lot of the virtues that golf teaches us, I try to instill those in the classroom, and that's -- but I don't talk much about golf in there.

Q. Todd, so one of your students actually just tweeted, "That's my teacher", in response to one of our things. What's it mean for you to take this back to them? And you say teaching is a virtue, what's it mean to take this back and kind of persevere through this many rounds of golf and came out victorious? What's that message for them?

TODD WHITE: Well, I think anyone can look at kids and say, look, hard work pays off. But when I go into the classroom and for those that, you know, I'll direct them to the website so they can look at it and see what was going on. But hopefully they see firsthand that hard work and perseverance does pay off.

Q. Todd, you've played in a lot of USGA Championships. What was it like when you got that Gold Medal put around you? I know you've been trying to win a National Championship for a long time, and Nathan's been through that experience, but you haven't. Give us a sense of what was going through your head when that thing got put around your neck?

TODD WHITE: Great satisfaction. Great satisfaction, knowing that with Nathan here we're national champions.

Q. Nathan, I'll follow up with that, four time U.S. Mid Am Champion, and you won the State Team with Pennsylvania in '09. How does this compare and how is this different from some of the other championships you won?

NATHAN SMITH: For me, it's up there. We were just talking, and I think I felt more pressure than I had maybe in any of those individual or even with the state thing.

TODD WHITE: Because you didn't know where I was going to hit it.

NATHAN SMITH: I just didn't want to let Todd down, I think. So if you're just playing for yourself, you know, it's kind of all on you, but I didn't want to let my partner down as we kept advancing. So for me, I felt a lot more pressure playing today than all week.

Q. You also kept remarking how much fun you were having throughout the week. Can you put that in perspective against some of the other, roughly, three dozen championships you've played in?

NATHAN SMITH: Yeah, we always have a lot of fun. Yeah, I guess if I'm playing more individual things there's not as much joking because there's really nobody to joke with. A few funny things with my dad here and there, but nothing like this.

Q. Nathan, you've played before, right?

NATHAN SMITH: Yes.

Q. And Todd you played in an Open?

TODD WHITE: Yes.

Q. Do those experiences on that stage, does that help you at all having gone through that?

NATHAN SMITH: Yeah, I mean, any time you play, I don't think it really matters what the result is in that event. I think anytime you play on that stage you're going to learn something about yourself and about your golf game and what it is under the heat and certain swing thoughts that work, certain that don't. When you're in front of that many people, it's very helpful.

Q. In what way to you? Is there any example?

NATHAN SMITH: Well, I think if you're out there playing today and there are 100 people following you, that's not something that's going to faze you when you're playing in front of 10,000 people around a tee.

Q. Along those lines, the experience with USGA set-ups, it seemed like this golf course got more difficult each day and the greens were firming. What is the role of experience there with you two and how much you've played in these type of events?

TODD WHITE: Well, from what I was told, today's hole locations were the Sunday pin placements for the 2012 Open; is that correct? I think so. So kind of understanding how to maneuver the golf ball to where, not that you're getting really close to the hole, but just so that you've got uphill putts when you get the chance. Like I said, just playing smart golf. I think the experience factor plays in there with USGA set-ups.

Q. You guys both said how tough it was and how hard. What makes it so hard? What is distinctive? Was it the sidehill lies, or what are the one or two tees of this course you found particularly challenging?

TODD WHITE: I think off the tee. It's so demanding off the tee because it seems that so many people have said the hole would bend one way and the fairway slopes the other, and it seems you always had the wind going in the opposite direction of the bend, so it's difficult to put the ball in play here. Then when you do, a lot of times you have the sidehill lies.

Q. What did you guys make of the event itself? I mean, not your own expectations of how you play, but just the selection of players you played. You played young kids, you played older Mid Ams, there was a great mix here. What did you think?

NATHAN SMITH: I think the event's really going to take off. I think it's going to become one of the most popular USGA events. I think you're going to have so many cool things like younger guys playing older guys. I think even that playoff the other day, I thought that would be exciting to even get into Match Play and have -- I just think there is so much drama. I think everybody, as I was saying too, it's more enjoyable, and it's funner to play with a partner on a course like that. I think it will really take off.

TODD WHITE: I think the event actually carries the mantra of the USGA, "For the Good of the Game." This event is good for the game.

Q. I'll follow up with another one. We're looking at the trophy here. Is there, for lack of a better term, a cool factor that you'll have your name first on this trophy winning the inaugural championship?

NATHAN SMITH: We were just talking about that outside. That's pretty emotional stuff. I think the event's really going to take off, and as Todd was saying outside, after maybe our playing days are over, you can see that our name was there. It's very emotional. I don't think I've gotten my arms around it yet, but it's pretty emotional stuff.

TODD WHITE: It will probably hit me when I wake up in the Atlanta airport.

Q. You didn't play with Fox golf analyst Brad Faxon at Furman?

NATHAN SMITH: No, Brad is a little older than me.

Q. How old?

NATHAN SMITH: I have no idea. I don't want to say. I think Brad’s six years older than me, I think? I think that's right.

Q. Do you have to court your principal at all to take off for these kinds of things?

TODD WHITE: Luckily I have a number of days banked, so I'm good.

Q. Do you have a standing dinner deal with which of you plays better whoever buys?

TODD WHITE: Yeah, I was supposed to buy last night.

NATHAN SMITH: Yeah, we did have that. Yeah, and I would probably buy tonight. Maybe I still will. We did have that. Whoever played better, I'd have no problem picking up the check after he played so good.

Q. What is the connection? How did you guys get to be teammates for this?

TODD WHITE: I've known Nathan for number of years through amateur golf. Like it's been said, he and I were teammates on the 2013 Walker Cup team, and that's where the bond formed.

Q. Will that trophy make it to show and tell at all at school?

TODD WHITE: No. No. It's silver, right? No.

Q. Follow-up on the question about how you guys met? When did you decide the two of us are going to pair up and play in the inaugural Four-Ball? How did that sort of develop?

TODD WHITE: When they announced the event I was saying outside half-jokingly, I think it took me about 20 minutes to call it, and say, hey, let's do this. I think we might be okay.

NATHAN SMITH: I'm glad he did.

Q. Did he say yes just as quickly or was there hesitation?

NATHAN SMITH: The lines were probably jammed up. I was probably calling him at the same time. But, yeah, we were on the Walker Cup team and we talked about it once we learned of the event. And thought it would be cool for us to do it. Thought, yeah, let's give it a try.

 

More from the USGA