INDIANA, PA (May 4, 2011)-- Golfers in the Western region of Pennsylvania have hardly begun to play golf in 2011, due to the extremely soggy spring they have experienced thus far. Nathan Smith and Paul Schlachter (Senior Division) apparently haven't noticed. They were in peak form, and proved it to their opponents this week.
Nathan Smith, of Pinecrest Golf Club, had a very difficult road to the Championship. In the first round, he was paired against a player who routinely finishes in the top 20 of almost everything he plays in. That player being William Smith, of Chambersburg Country Club, the 2009 PA Middle-Amateur Champion. Nathan Smith was 5-up through 6 holes before William Smith battled back and got the match within 1 hole down, but was eventually closed out with a birdie on the 16th hole.
Smith's quarterfinal match was no "gimme" as well. Ross Brown, of Huntsville Golf Club, is relatively new to the PAGA championship scene, but has proven he belongs. Brown finished T-9 in the 2010 Amateur Championship at Nemacolin Woodlands and qualified for the 2010 Open Championship at Applebrook Golf Club. He came out hot against Smith and was 2-up through 7 holes, which included 2 birdies and 5 pars. Smith struck back and won the eighth and ninth holes to even the match at the turn. Smith never backed off the accelerator and won the tenth and eleventh holes with birdies. Brown was unable to gain any traction and ended up losing 4 & 2.
The semifinals brought a familiar foe in David Brown, of St. Clair Country Club. Brown upset Smith in the 2010 Match Play first round. So this was rematch of sorts for the competitors.
"He never really missed a shot, and when he did, he still made pars," said Brown after the match.
Smith made 3 birdies and the rest were pars through 15 holes of play. Brown's 2 birdies and 4 bogeys could not withstand the play of Smith. The match concluded at 5 & 3.
In the final match, Smith was pitted against Michael Brown, of Lookaway Golf Club. Brown made quick work of his first three competitors. He was 5-up at the turn against Jim Markovitz, of The Club at Nevillewood, and played conservatively to a 3 & 2 victory. He then faced Michael Kania, of Overbrook Golf Club, in the Quarterfinals. Brown jumped out to a lead again, going 4-up through 10 holes, before eventually closing Kania out at 4 & 3.
Prior to the final match, Brown was up against the reining Amateur Champion, Cory Siegfried, of Philadelphia Country Club. Unfortunately, disaster struck Siegfried in the first few holes in the form of a wrist injury. He was unable to proceed after the tenth hole and was forced to withdraw.
Smith was unfazed by the steady rain that the players endured during the final two matches. He jumped out to a lead after Brown missed a short putt on the fifth hole, hit his approach into the greenside bunker on the sixth hole, and made bogey on the eighth hole, to leave the match at 4-up. Brown then found a groove and birdied the ninth and won the tenth with a par. He then birdied eleven and twelve to miraculously bring the match to All Square. A fresh slate in the match did not go as planned for Brown, however. He bogeyed thirteen and fourteen to go back to 2-down.
Just when Smith thought he had a hold on the match, he made a bogey on the 208 yard, par 3, 15th hole, and halved the sixteenth hole with a birdie save. The players headed up the hill to the difficult 180 yard, par 3, 17th hole. Brown hit a beautiful tee ball that ended up five feet below the hole. Smith stepped up and caught a little gust of wind and it flew the flag and ended up on the back of the green surface, leaving a down hill difficult putt.
Smith rolled it in perfectly to force Brown into a make or break situation. Unfortunately for Brown, he missed on the low side to finish the match at 2 & 1.
View results for R. Jay Sigel Pennsylvania Amateur Match Play Golf Championship