Smith relishes Masters with father on the bag

Nathan Smith acknowledges the gallery after a birdie at the 10th.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Shadows started to creep over the 18th fairway Friday evening at Augusta National as Nathan Smith and his father, Larry, walked towards the green.

They looked at each other, then looked around, then slowed their pace. This was a time to savor the moment. And there was no better place for a father and son to say, “I love you.”

“You just never know when you’re going to get back,” Larry Smith said, his eyes welling with tears, still wearing his white caddie suit and green hat 30 minutes after Nathan had putted in for a closing par on No. 18.

“This is hallowed ground. It’s just a real special time for a father and son. He said, ‘I love you, dad.’ And I said, ‘I love you, son.’ That’s what it’s really all about.”

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Nathan Smith (right) and his father, Larry, walk down the first fairway during the first round of the Masters.

Smith, who was making his second Masters appearance, missed the cut by two shots after rounds of 74-75. But that hardly mattered. In fact, “great” was the word he used to describe how he was feeling moments after his round. As the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, Smith arrived at Augusta a week ago Friday to get the full amateur experience. He’s been staying in the Crow’s Nest all week and had no plans to pack his bags until Sunday afternoon.

“We would never leave now,” Larry said. “Heck, we still have more family coming tomorrow.”

Smith, 31, an investment advisor from Pittsburgh, first came to Augusta in 2004 after winning the ’03 Mid-Am. He was paired with Arnold Palmer that week, as The King was making his final Masters appearance. Larry, who was on the bag for Smith that week as well, admitted he couldn’t take his eyes off Palmer. This time, he was able to enjoy the beauty of Augusta and marvel at the skill of Smith’s playing partners, Mark O’Meara and Rory Sabbatini.

Augusta National proved too long and tough for Smith. Despite hitting 13 of 14 fairways on Friday, he didn’t birdie any of the course’s four par 5s and took a total of 64 putts through two rounds.

Smith will go back to work next week and plans to fill his summer with plenty of events. He says he’s a “perfect fit” for the amateur game. He was one of six in the field this week, and the oldest by eight years.

“The first time at Augusta was just a blur,” Smith said. “It felt like we were floating up the 18th fairway. But this time we wanted to soak it in. You blink your eyes and it goes like that.”

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