By Mike Dudurich, Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich
Watching Jordan Spieth dominate the Masters like it has rarely been dominated, I wondered if there was any Western Pennsylvania connection with the boy wonder.
A text message to Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh’s own and one of the premier mid-Amateurs in the game, confirmed he not only knows the 21-year-old phenom, but has played many rounds with him.
“I’ve played with him a lot and we were on the 2011 Walker Cup team,” Smith said. “He’s one of the reasons we hung in there. There’s just something about him.”
Smith played with Spieth in various big-time amateur events prior to the kid from Dallas turning pro in December 2012.
Most memorable was that Walker Cup when the United States team won, 14-12, with Spieth grinding out a 3-2 singles win on the final day. That edition of amateur golf’s Ryder Cup was held at the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Smith says he and Spieth text “here and there” and he has watched Spieth’s meteoric rise as a professional. And while Smith and Spieth were teammates four years ago, what Smith saw then, the rest of the golf world is seeing now.
“He was just 17 at the time, but you could see there was something special about him, you could see the game he had,” Smith texted. “He wasn’t fazed by anything and as we’re seeing today, he isn’t now.”
Smith was amazed at what he saw the first few times he crossed paths with Spieth.
“You could just see it in his game, even at age 17. No one ever knows if a young guy like that will continue to get better and better but he certainly has. Most players set up their game from tee-to-green, Jordan even at that young age, was thinking green-to-tee. And while he hits a lot of greens, when he has to play around the greens, he’s really tough,” Smith said.
Spieth flashes that boyish smile in interviews and gives the look of the quiet, boy next door. Underneath that exterior, however, is a very driven young man. Smith isn’t one of those who believe Spieth is too good to be true.
“He’s as good as he looks,” he said. “He’s intense, competitive in the game and very businesslike out there. But he’s a fun kid, kind of just what you see. He was a lot of fun, one of the guys in the Walker Cup team room.”
Smith headlines a group of players from Western Pennsylvania who will compete in the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship May 2-6 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
The event was created when the United States Public Links was discontinued.
A field of 256 golfers, consisting of 128 teams will compete in a pair of 18-hole stroke-play qualifying rounds May 2 and 3 after which a cut to the low 32 teams will be made. Five 18-hole rounds of match play will determine a champion.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Smith, who’ll team with Todd White, a long-time friend and competitor, in the event.
Will Betts of Leechburg, a junior at the University of Hartford, will also be in the field at Olympic. His teammate will be Evan Russell of Grantham, N.H.
Michael Garcia and Ted Grassi of Erie also qualified for the Four-Ball.
In the Women’s Four-Ball, Katie Miller of Jeannette will team with Amber Marsh Elliott of Greensboro, N.C. May 9-13 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore.