2005: Duke’s Smith victorious at abbreviated Azalea

Charleston, S.C.

The 58th Azalea Invitational at the Country Club of Charleston turned into a showdown between two California youngsters and the weatherman. The weatherman eventually won when the 72-hole tournament was reduced to 54 holes because of heavy rainfall.

Of the two California players, 21-year-old Nathan J. Smith of Soguel, Calif., emerged as the Azalea champion with rounds of 65-69-67 for a 12-under-par 201 total.

Finishing two strokes back at 203 was 17-year-old Erik Flores of Grass Valley, Calif., with rounds of 67-68-68.

Until the first day of the tournament, Smith, a junior at Duke University, had never seen the Country Club of Charleston course, which was designed in 1925 by Seth Raynor.

“I had to get special permission from one of my professors just to be here,” Smith said, “so I didn’t even get to play a practice round.”

No matter, because he opened with a 6-under-par 65 that “could have been 61 or 62” as he missed a half-dozen birdie putts of less than 10 feet.

“It was maybe the best ball-striking round I’ve ever had,” Smith said.

Flores, headed to UCLA this fall, was making his first trip to the eastern United States and his first trip on his own.

The Azalea Invitational, started 60 years ago, had encountered weather demons before – in the late 1980s, after Hurricane Hugo roared through the Carolinas, the tournament was canceled for two consecutive years.

Tied for third at 206, five shots behind, were veteran South Carolina amateurs Gus Sylvan of Columbia and Steve Liebler of Irmo.

The low round of the tournament, a 7-under 64, was fired in the third round by former U.S. Amateur runner-up Buddy Marucci of Malvern, Pa., although he finished in a tie for 42nd after opening with scores of 75 and 77.

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