Smith outlasts top seed to advance at U.S. Am

Nathan Smith ousted top-seeded Lee McCoy in 19 holes at the U.S. Amateur on Wednesday.

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Nathan Smith has won four Mid-Amateur titles, but his record in the U.S. Amateur is not as successful, only progressing to the match-play portion four times.

However, he took full advantage Wednesday on Atlanta Athletic Club's Highlands course, knocking off top-seeded Lee McCoy in 19 holes.

The 36-year-old Smith is the quintessential amateur. Having never turned pro, he works as an investment advisor in Pittsburgh and fits in golf as he can, usually hitting balls or working on his short game.

But don't let that fool you. Smith sill has a tendency to show up at the world's biggest amateur events and hangs with the younger competition.

Smith is No. 741 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, mainly because he plays in so few ranked events, but beat the 56th-ranked McCoy and next will face Brandon McIvor, ranked No. 220, in the Round of 32 Thursday morning.

“I wouldn't be happy about it if I was playing him tomorrow,” McCoy said. “Usually if a guy hits it not as great as he could and scores the way he's scoring, that means he's due to hit it good and he's probably still scoring the same way. I like his chances.”

Just being in match play was a struggle for Smith, having to get through after a 17-for-4 playoff at 8 a.m. and then return for a 2:10 p.m. tee time Wednesday.

Playing in his 14th U.S. Amateur, Smith returned to his hotel for a nap, finished up his victory just before 7 p.m. and will return Thursday for a 7:45 a.m. tee time.

“I can't remember back that far,” Smith said about when he made it past the first round of match play. “I've been trying through the years. U.S. Amateur is just such a good field anymore and any time you make match play, you're playing great golf, and like I said, managed to get lucky and get past Lee today. It's exciting for me. Means a lot.”

Expectations for Smith were not necessarily low, but he’s been around the block so many times that his experience and understanding of how hard it is to win a U.S. Amateur tempered his excitement.

But if he can progress through the Round of 32 Thursday morning and the Round of 16 Thursday afternoon, Smith should have his four mid-am victories to draw upon.

“I'll be ready to play,” Smith said. “I haven't looked at the brackets. I don't know anything. I mean, everybody is good and I'll be ready to play and try to play my best. I think it's one of those things you kind of – I mean, I'm not going to say, you're just satisfied and you're ready to get out of here. I'm ready to keep trying to play hard and see what happens. It's exciting.”

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification