As he walked up the 18th fairway at Augusta National Golf Club during the second round of the Masters Tournament, Nathan Smith, ’01, put his arm around his caddie and father, Larry Smith.
“My favorite part of the Masters is having my Dad caddie for me and to walk up 18 together is indescribable,” Smith said.
The second round was his final round of the tournament this year. Smith missed the 3-over-par cut after finishing 5 over par with scores of 74 and 75.
His 2010 appearance in the Masters was not his first. After winning the United States Mid-Amateur Championship, Smith received an invitation to play in the 2004 Masters, where he missed the cut by finishing 6 over par. He missed the cut both times by two strokes.
Last year, he won the Mid-Am again and received another invitation to play in the celebrated Masters.
“I enjoyed this one a lot more,” Smith said. “I was very overwhelmed in 2004. Plus you realize and appreciate how hard it is to play in the Masters and get back down there.”
During the practice rounds, Smith got himself acquainted with the crowds. He gave away his balls to children and adults alike. On the par-3 16th during the second practice round, he skipped a ball over the pond to respond to the chants of “Skip it!” from the crowd.
“I was having a blast,” Smith said.
Smith teed off at 8:45 a.m. on the humid morning of the first round with 1998 Masters Champion Mark O’Meara and Rory Sabbatini. He came off the first tee with good momentum.
Though still early in the day, following his third hole, Smith had himself on the leader board with 2 under par.
“That was surreal,” Smith said. “It was something I’ll remember forever and it was uncharted territory, which was fun.”
He was, in fact, briefly part of a seven-way tie for the lead. After nine holes, Smith was 1-under-par and the wind was picking up.
“A huge front was coming through which made the back [nine] a wind tunnel and an absolute nightmare to play,” Smith said. “I knew breaking 40 would be really hard on the back for me.”
Nevertheless, Smith sunk a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th hole, the most difficult hole on the course, according to the official spectator guide. Two holes later, on the celebrated par-3 12th hole in Amen Corner, Smith drilled yet another 20-foot birdie putt in front of cheering crowds.
The dog-leg left 13th hole began a four-hole bogey streak. Smith was 2-under at this point and he knew that he had a birdie opportunity at the par 5.
He cut the corner, but ended up in the woods and had to take a drop.
“In that situation you have to go for it,” Smith said. “Roll the dice. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Smith broke 40 on the back nine with his 3-over score of 39. His total of 74 was comprised of five birdies, seven bogeys and six pars.
Smith teed off at 11:52 a.m. for the second round. He played consistently, hitting 13 out of 14 fairways, compared to his first round of six, and paring 13 holes.
After bogeying the par-3 fourth hole during the first round, Smith sunk a 25-foot birdie putt the second day. Unfortunately, that was his only birdie of the day in conjunction with four bogeys.
Smith never lost his smile or wit despite missing the cut to play the weekend.
After his second straight bogey following the sixth hole, a crowd member said hello and asked how Smith was doing to which he replied “good.”
As in 2004, Phil Mickelson received the green jacket this year after finishing Sunday at 16-under-par. Mickelson invited Smith to play 18 holes with him before the tournament in 2004.
“He won that year, so he got superstitious and set it up again this year,” Smith said. “So far we are two-for-two. He’s off the charts talented.”
Smith returned to his home and job in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“I was disappointed that they didn’t let me keep the Mercedes they give you that week to drive around,” Smith said. “So unfortunately I guess I’ll have to drive my [Chevrolet] Impala into work. Bummer.”