Rookie diary: Hoping for progress at the Hope

Nate Smith during the 2011 Sony Open.

Nate Smith during the 2011 Sony Open.

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Well, here we are at the Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs. I love this area this time of year because the weather is amazing and there are so many avid golfers around. This is a homecoming of sorts, as I’ve lived and trained here at the Palms Golf Club for the past two winters.

It’ll certainly be a treat to be on the other side of the ropes this time. In years past, I would come out to the Hope to get some equipment from the club companies and say hi to friends, but it was always bittersweet.

The Bob Hope Classic has been around since 1960, and has played a large role in placing golf in the top ranks of American sport. Arnold Palmer won the inaugural event in dominating fashion, with a 22-under total that stood as the tournament record for 20 years. Palmer shot a final-round 65, during which throngs of fans followed him around the course, the first taste of what would forever be known as “Arnie’s Army.” Five months later, Palmer would win the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills and be crowned “The King.” It’s definitely cool to play in these events filled with such a rich history.





About Nate Smith

PGA Tour rookie Nate Smith will write a diary for Golfweek.com throughout the 2011 PGA Tour season. Smith will give you a detailed account of life both inside and outside the ropes on golf's grandest stage. Smith, a Duke grad from Soquel, Calif., is a unique player, having competed in more than 35 countries before earning his PGA Tour card.

One of the things that make this tournament unique is that the professionals are paired with three amateurs every day. Some are celebrities, some are business moguls, and some are just avid golfers who relish the chance to play inside the ropes alongside a professional on the “Big Show.”

I would have to say that I probably fall into all three categories. The celebrities are a big draw. Some fans enjoy coming to watch them play just as much as they enjoy watching the professionals. We know Bo (Jackson) knows baseball, and Bo knows football, but does Bo know golf? Personally I was gunning for the Dr. J, George Gervin and Sugar Ray Leonard pairing.

There was a gala ball last night where they announced all of the pairings. Country music singer Trace Adkins put on a great performance, and comedian Ron White made some off-color jokes. Some lady with an absolutely stunning voice sang the national anthem, and Cher was there as well. I’m also fairly sure that Adkins had never performed in front of so many formally dressed people in his entire life.

After last evening’s event, I have decided I need to invest in some more formal attire. The khakis, plaid shirt and fashionable sneakers just don’t cut it out here. For all of you people out there reading this, I have a taste for fine suits and shoes. Let me clarify that a bit – as long as it is free, it is fine. You guys over there at Ermenegildo Zegna . . . you know how to reach me.

On a separate but somewhat related note, in honor of the ever-flashy-dressing Bob Hope, at some point this week I will be going all Rodney Dangerfield on some people with the plaid pants. I’m not scared to pop into the local Goodwill and find me a nice plaid bellbottom pant – I can only imagine the bevy of options the Palm Springs location has to offer.

• • •

Last week’s Sony Open was an interesting introduction to the PGA Tour. It definitely started out great, and overall I will take some major positives from it, but playing so poorly in the final round really grinded my gears. No matter whether people think you belong there or not, as a competitor you always believe you can win, so to put yourself in good position and not come through is tough to handle (Smith started the final round in 13th place).

To be honest with you, I was thinking about winning and then I realized that it would really complicate things. There would have been so much stuff going on with the media and various other demands that I probably wouldn’t have had time to do this rookie diary for Golfweek. To make things easier, I decided to finish T-42 instead. I also knew that if I won my very first PGA Tour event, I would have had to retire with my unblemished record. I’m not ready to walk away from the game. By the way, does anyone know if Brett Favre is retiring this year?

All in all, it was a great week, though. I made my first PGA Tour cut, got right into the action and most importantly, I didn’t die getting smashed on the rocks during my spear-fishing adventure. My friend and I decided it would be a good idea to jump off this 20-foot cliff into some rather large surf with our spear guns to shoot some dinner.

It got kind of sketchy from there. We got stuck on the outside of a reef break and couldn’t make out our land markers with the size of the swell. We ended up just charging through, though, and ended up relatively unharmed, besides the bruised ego, of course, since we shot exactly zero fish. I probably won’t be doing that again. Actually, let’s be honest, yes I will.

• • •

There’s something we need to talk about: I left my e-mail in the last diary but surprisingly I am still staying in a small hotel room this week. Come on, guys, I am not doing this diary for my own good, if you or anyone you know owns a rather large mansion where we are playing the Tour event that week, I expect an invitation.

Well, I am about to head off to the golf course to practice a little bit. The rotation is tough on the rookies this week. We have to play four golf courses and have two days to do so. I decided that instead of playing all four, I am not going to play any of them. I sent my caddie, Brian, out here before to Hawaii to scout, so he will tell me where to hit it and I will attempt to follow his directions. We have a new driver in the bag this week. The one I used last week kept going left. See, guys, pros and amateurs are still the same on some level – we both realize that if the ball isn’t going where you want it, it must be the club!

Keep the e-mails coming. I love hearing your feedback. My e-mail is Natedog928@aol.com. Next week I will answer some questions, so send those along as well. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and I hope you get to watch me on the TV this week!

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