Nathan Smith captures another National Championship:
From the desk of Mike Dudurich

Posted May 13, 2015 - 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

Nathan Smith and Todd White at the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship

The WPGA has retained Mike Dudurich to write a blog for its website. The opinions and observations contained within are his own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the Association.

Nathan Smith and Todd White made history and memories in winning the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship last week at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Their names will be the first engraved on the championship trophy, a very cool thing. And considering the buzz the first playing of the event has created, this championship will only get bigger and more popular.

Smith, who lives in Allison Park and White, a teacher in South Carolina, were Walker Cup teammates and came together as a team quickly and efficiently to run the table to the title. And they had a lot of fun doing it, too.

When they got to the first tee for their semifinal match against a pair of high school seniors, Sam Burns and Austin Connelly, the youngsters presented them with a gift: adult diapers for Smith and Harvey.

“It was in fun, but we got the message,” Smith said. “But we knew they were trying to say we might need them for a long match against them.”

As it turns out, they didn’t even need to go the full match against the youngsters, winning 2 & 1.

And then there was this: In that match against the kids, Smith and White carried their bags, while Burns and Connelly took caddies. Before the final match, Smith and White decided to take caddies. And who did they get? The caddies used by the kids in the morning!

This event was a great hit and figures to grow quickly into a major amateur championship. Smith and White received 10-year exemptions into the tournament as a result of their win.

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A former Pittsburgher, Matt Simone, also competed in the Four-Ball Championship.

He and teammate Cory Bacon dropped a 2 & 1 quarterfinals decision to the high-schoolers that Smith and White beat in the semifinals.

Simone went to North Allegheny High School and Carnegie Mellon and then relocated to Arizona where he’s a member of Ping’s research and development team.

“We call us the innovation crew,” Simone, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, said. “Cory is in that crew. So having him as a teammate has been fun. This thing was awesome. It was my first time playing in a USGA event and my first time ever at the Olympic Club. Everything was top-notch and we couldn’t have been treated any better.”

•  •  •

Maybe there is a mystical connection between Western Pennsylvania and the Four-Ball.

The women’s version of the event is being held at Bandon Dunes in Bandon, Oregon and success has been had for a competitor from here.

Katie Miller of Jeannette, a two-time PIAA champion from Hempfield High School is paired with Amber Marsh-Elliott. And the two have done quite nicely to this point, but there’s even an interesting background story.

Miller was recruited by Marsh-Elliott to play college golf at the University of North Carolina. Marsh-Elliott was an assistant coach at the time, but after Miller committed to the Tar Heels, Marsh-Elliott decided to leave the school to start a family.

One of Miller’s teammates at UNC was Sydney Crane and when the creation of the Four-Ball came about, Miller immediately asked Crane to be her teammate.

“Sydney was kind of busy with her career and traveling,” Miller said. “She admitted to me she hadn’t touched a golf club in a really long time, so I decided to strategically keep it in the family without putting everyone at war.”

So she contacted Marsh-Elliott and the rest is history. Those two were medalists last year in a qualifier at Bent Creek Country Club with a 66.

Both have championship history, with Miller winning the 2007 Pennsylvania State Women’s Golf Association Amateur title and Marsh-Elliot winning the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in 2003.

Miller also made to the round of 16 in last year’s Mid-Am.

The pair finished T10 in stroke play qualifying with round of 69-70 and were seeded 10th going into match play. They advanced to the quarterfinals where they were ousted by the team of Robynn Ree and Hannah O'Sullivan. 4 & 3.

Miller and Marsh-Elliott made birdies on the first two holes, but didn’t make any more while Ree and O’Sullivan recorded six birdies.

•  •  •

Michael Larkin of Harrison, N.Y., Kevin Shields of Pittsburgh, Grant Doverspike of The Woodlands, Texas and Bob Friend of Pittsburgh earned their way into sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open next month at Chambers Bay in Washington.

Larkin, Shields and Doverspike shot 67s at Indiana Country Club and Friend emerged from a three-man playoff with Ronald DeNunzio of Jeannette and Mike Van Sickle of McKees Rocks, birdieing the second playoff hole to eliminate Van Sickle, after DeNunzio was eliminated with a bogey on the first extra hole.

Van Sickle had a bit of unfortunate luck on that second hole. He missed the fairway left, and after Friend had stuck his approach a couple feet from the pin, Van Sickle swung at his short approach, producing a strange sound and an even stranger ball flight.

He was left with a 25-footer up the hill, missed that and Friend sunk his to get the spot.

What caused the strange sound? His ball had landed on a divot tool and the sound was the metal clubhouse hitting the metal tool.

“That’s kind of the way the year has gone,” Van Sickle said.

•  •  •

Congratulations are in order for a pair of teams who won titles in the 2015 West Penn Golf Association’s Foursome Championships.

Nathan Smith and Sean Knapp won the 61st Fred Brand Championship, shooting rounds of 69-71 at the Longue Vue Club for an even-par 140 total. It was the sixth time the two best friends have won that event.

They were the only team to post an under-par round in the 36-hole event.

Smith and Knapp last won the Brand in 2010.

Also contested at Longue Vue that day was the Semple Brothers Foursomes Championship for players 55 and older. The longtime outstanding duo of Bob Allshouse and Dave DeNezza won the title by a shot over Joe Corsi and Paul Schlacter.

The winners posted rounds of 76-71, while the runners-up finished 75-73. It was the first time the two had teamed to win the event.

DeNezza obviously had been playing well lately. He knocked off Don Lamb of St. Clair Country, 6 & 5 to win the Ninth Senior Match Play Championship at Scotch Valley Country Club.