JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Nathan Smith dispatched Brandon McIver, 4 and 3, to move on in the 114h U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club on Thursday morning.
The victory is only the second time that Smith has progressed beyond the Round of 32 in his 14 appearances in the U.S. Amateur and sets up his Round-of-16 match with San Diego’s Byron Meth, a 5-and-4 winner over Trevor Phillips.
This is the first time that Smith has made the Round of 16 since 2000 at Baltusrol.
Smith, 36, of Pittsburgh, never turned professional. In a field with an average age younger than 22, he stands out as a veteran in a young man’s game.
“They’re all so good,” Smith said of the field. “They are all great players. (I’m) just trying to play as hard as I can and see what happens.”
From the beginning of match play, Smith has been downplaying his ability. As an investment adviser, he plays a limited schedule. He prepared for this week by hitting balls and working on his short game.
But with four U.S. Mid-Amateur titles to his credit, Smith has a level of experience unmatched in a field of young and generally long hitters.
“There were a couple where I kept up with him, and then were some others where 50 (yards), maybe,” said Smith, comparing his tee shots to McIver’s. “There were a couple of spooky drives he had out there.”
Smith countered McIver’s length with his putter, making three birdies, including consecutive ones at Nos. 9 and 10. He flipped a 1-down deficit after eight holes to a 2-up edge after 11.
“I had probably my best stuff, and he probably didn’t have his best stuff,” Smith said. “He was hitting great shots; it just wasn’t happening for him. A couple bad breaks and all of the sudden you’re two or three up, and then it kind of feeds.”
Smith has had quite a ride getting to this point. On Wednesday morning, he survived a 17-for-4 playoff after the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying to advance to match play and then had to face Lee McCoy, the co-medalist and top seed.
Smith needed 19 holes to defeat McCoy and face the long-hitting McIver, an Oregon junior from Billings, Mont.
“Once you get in match play, you’re not just satisfied,” Smith said. “I want to be competitive, and I’m trying like everyone else to get as far as I can.”