Walker Cup teammates Todd White (left) and Nathan Smith (Photo by Darren Carroll/USGA)
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Nathan Smith and Todd White, 2013 USA Walker Cup teammates, defeated Sherrill Britt and Greg Earnhardt, 7 and 5, in the final match to win the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at The Olympic Club’s Lake Course, which has hosted five U.S. Opens.
“Great satisfaction,” said White, of winning “Great satisfaction, knowing that with Nathan here we're national champions.”
“I think Nathan's got such a good short game,” said Earnhardt, an insurance agent who battled blisters on his feet and toes for the final three rounds. “You know he's never out of the hole no matter where he is, and he's such a good putter and then Todd hits it so well.”
“If we played them ten times, we might beat them twice,” said Britt, a custom home builder. “But, we'd have to be rested to do it.”
Smith, 36, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and White, 47, of Spartanburg, S.C., began the match with wins on the first four holes, including a 14-foot birdie putt by Smith on the third hole.
“Getting up early was a big, big help,” said White, a high school history teacher who won the 2015 Azalea Amateur. “It freed us up to not really take chances, because you can't do that here, but just know that we could play steady golf. It's difficult to make birdies out there, so it was going to be tough for them to catch up.”
Britt, 49, of West End, N.C., and Earnhardt, 46, of Greensboro, N.C., won their only hole of the match on the fifth on a 6-foot birdie putt by Earnhardt but lost the sixth on a 9-foot birdie by White.
The next four holes were halved. Smith and White won the next two holes with pars to extend their lead to 6 up. The match and the championship were clinched on the par-3 13th when White hit a 7-iron to three feet for a conceded birdie. The 7-and-5 decision was the largest margin of victory in any round of the championship.
“I just didn't want to let Todd down,” said Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who works as an investment advisor. “So if you're just playing for yourself, it's kind of all on you, but I didn't want to let my partner down as we kept advancing. So for me, I felt a lot more pressure playing today than all week.”
White, with 16 past USGA championship appearances and Smith, with 33, played 76 consecutive holes in five rounds of match play without making a bogey. In 78 holes, their lone bogey, against 19 birdies, was on the second hole of the first round.
“I didn't know it was that many holes,” said Smith. “I was afraid if we made one bogey we were going to make like four in a row, so I didn't want to think about it too much.”
In a “hometown” match, Britt and Earnhardt carried their own bags in defeating Scott Harvey, 36, of Greensboro, N.C., and Todd Mitchell, 36, of Bloomington, Ill., in 19 holes in one of the morning’s semifinals.
Britt and Earnhardt won the first two holes but Harvey and Mitchell squared the match by winning holes 3 and 12. The sides halved the next six holes, including the 17th and 18th with birdies before Earnhardt birdied the par-4, 10th hole for the victory.
Earnhardt had holed key birdie putts on the 17th and 18th holes to extend the match.
“I’ve played with him 10 million times and I've never seen him putt like that,” said Harvey, who won the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur and the 2015 South American Amateur.
In the other semifinal, Smith and White defeated the No.2-seeded and highly regarded side of 18-year-old high school seniors Sam Burns, of Shreveport, La., and Austin Connelly, of Irving, Texas. The younger duo, ranked 6th and 10th, respectively in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, lost 2 and 1.
Smith and White won the first hole and never trailed, though Burns and Connelly squared the match on the 10th hole with a 10-foot birdie putt by Burns, a three-time Louisiana high school champion who will attend LSU. Holding a 1-up advantage on the par-5 17th hole, Smith and White closed out the match when Smith holed a 40-foot birdie putt.
“They stepped up on the back nine,” said Connelly, who captured the Jones Cup in February and will attend Arkansas. They made three putts outside of 30 feet at really key times.”
The 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play on the Lake and Ocean Courses of The Olympic Club followed by five rounds of match play played only on the Lake Course.
The winners receive custody of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship Trophy for a year as well as gold medals. Semifinal sides, which must remain intact, are exempt from qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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