To get you ready for the 2013 Masters, we are breaking down the amateurs and first-timers that will play at Augusta National starting on Thursday, April 11.
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How he qualified: Won, 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur
Nathan Smith is the elder statesman among the amateurs at this year’s Masters. In fact, the 34-year-old has more experience at Augusta National than many of the players in this year’s field. This will be Smith’s fourth appearance at Augusta National, and third in the last four years. He’s the first player to win four U.S. Mid-Amateurs. He claimed his latest in September, beating Canada’s Garrett Rank, 1 up, at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill.
Smith is chasing history each time he tees it up in the Masters. No reigning Mid-Am champion has made the cut since the tournament started inviting the winner in ’89.
“It never gets old,” Smith said. “Every time you set foot on the property, you always feel like a kid. You always go back in time, imagine different shots like (Jack Nicklaus’) putt in 1986 or Larry Mize’s chip-in.
Smith, who lives in Pittsburgh, is an investment adviser with Executive Wealth Counselors. He was an NCAA Division III All-American at Allegheny College before earning his MBA at Clarion. He’s the rare Masters participant with a master’s degree. He escapes the Pennsylvania winter by visiting his parents in Florida and playing tournaments in the Southeast. “Having the tournament a week later, that really helps,” Smith joked. “Just give me an extra seven days to get ready.”
He finished 18th at the Jones Cup and T-20 at the Azalea Amateur, two of the year’s top amateur events. Smith’s father, Larry, will caddie for his son again this year after carrying the bag in Nathan’s first three appearances.
“I’m playing well,” said Smith, a member of the United States’ 2009 and 2011 Walker Cup teams. “I have more experience, but every year the course gets harder. It just gets tougher and tougher. My first time in 2004, you had a lot more of the past champions, the tees weren’t as far back. It’s a tough cut to make.”
Smith has a 75.2 scoring average at Augusta National. He missed the cut by two shots in each of his first two appearances and shot 75-77 in his last appearance in 2011. He made double-bogey on the final hole of his debut in 2004 to miss the cut by two shots; he was paired with Arnold Palmer, a fellow western Pennsylvania native who was making his final Masters appearance. Smith was 2 under par and in the lead early in 2010’s first round before finding trouble at the par-5 13th.
“If I can just hold serve the first round and then get hot, you never know,” Smith said.