Alumnus set to play in second Masters

Playing in The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club is a lifelong dream of many amateur golfers and if given the chance to play, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Next week, Allegheny graduate Nathan Smith, ’01, will participate in his second Masters Tournament.

“From being there before, though, you realize how fortunate you are and how special it is to go back,” Smith reflected.

In October, Smith won his second United States Middle Amateur Championship in Kiawah Island, S.C., which is a tournament for the top amateur golfers in the world over the age of 25.  Winning this tournament earns an automatic invitation to The Masters.  Smith won his first Mid-Amateur title in 2003 when he became the youngest player ever to win the championship.

In the 2004 Masters, Smith was fortunate enough to play with Arnold Palmer, golf legend and fellow Western Pennsylvania native, in his last round at Augusta National.

Smith struggled to put into words what it was like when he realized he was going back to Augusta.

“It’s too big to get your arms around,” Smith said.

The 2004 Masters was an experience he will never forget and now he gets to do it all again.  Smith said he is going to try to do all the great things that are part of Masters Week.

One of the unique opportunities is the Par 3 contest, which is a competition before the start of the tournament where the pros get to give a little back to fans.

“The par 3 course is off-the-charts fun,” Smith said.

The Masters is often referred to as “a tradition unlike any other” because although it is one of the oldest championships, it is relatively unchanged.  For example, each year the five or six amateur golfers who are fortunate enough to be invited stay together in the Crows Nest, which is a suite above the clubhouse.  This is one the things Smith is looking forward to the most.

“It’s like sleeping under the Christmas tree waiting for Santa Claus,” Smith said.

In addition, Smith will have the advantage of having the same and, this time more experienced, caddy for week.  His father Larry Smith will be on bag again this year.

“It doesn’t get any better or cheaper than that,” Smith said, laughing.

In 2004, Smith double bogeyed the last hole to miss the cut by two strokes.  Smith was disappointed not to play the weekend but admitted that he still played extremely well.

“I might be more prepared for the huge galleries,” Smith said, in comparison to his first experience.

On average, about 35,000 patrons walk the grounds per day at The Masters.  As for the golf course, Augusta National was just ranked as the second hardest golf course in the United States by Golf Digest.

Smith admitted that he knows the course very well.

“Unfortunately the course is a lot like trying to guard Lebron James. You know he’s going baseline and dunking on you, but you just can’t stop it,” he said, laughing.

Smith is preparing the best he can and has high expectations.

“In the end, you’ve got to have a blast and soak it all up,” he admitted.

According to Golfweek, Smith is currently the No. 1 ranked amateur in the United States and No. 3 in the world.