Four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith
BIRMINGHAM, AL (September 29, 2016) -- Twelve years ago during the second round of the 2004 Masters nobody noticed the other man from Pennsylvania. As Arnold Palmer walked up the final fairway and waved goodbye to the adoring patrons lining the fairway and circling the green right there with him was another Western Pennsylvania native, Nathan Smith.
“It was so hard to think out there, let alone talk,” Smith told the USGA, a five-time USGA champion and four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur winner of the historic scene.
Unknowingly to Smith he needed a par on the final hole to make the cut but amid all the chaos and emotions he stumbled and double-bogeyed the hole. In the moments following his final round as a Masters competitor Palmer showed Smith why he is regarded the way he is.
"’I’m sorry this happened to you,’” said Smith, of Palmers post round words. “’You played great. That has happened to me before.’ I didn’t know what that meant [at the time], but I guess back in the day, he made double there to lose the  tournament (Palmer lost by a stroke to Gary Player). Years later, I realized what that meant.”
Smith, originally from Brookville and now a Pittsburgh, PA lives just about 40 miles away from Palmer's home town of Latrobe where just recently Smith was part of the winning amateur side at the 2016 Western Pennsylvania Palmer Cup Matches. The event, played at Latrobe Country Club pits the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association against the Tri-State PGA.
The two first became linked in 2003 when they met at the Palmer Cup Matches and from their a friendship was born. Besides playing together during rounds one and two of the 2004 Masters the two played a Tuesday practice round together.
In the years that followed Smith received an invitation from Palmer to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2013 and last year when Smith underwent shoulder surgery there was Palmer checking in on him.
“What blew me away with him is he could live anywhere in the world and yet he still went back to Latrobe,” said Smith. “In Pittsburgh, you don’t realize what an icon [he was], living there in Latrobe. People took it for granted because he was so accessible. The one thing I got from him is just how well he treated people, how present he was in conversations. He was just so good to me, not only down at Augusta giving me advice, but at the Palmer Cup.”
-The USGA contributed to this story