Smith with the Mid-Amateur Trophy in 2012. Photo courtesy of the United States Golf Association.

Nathan Smith named to Captain 2025 Walker Cup Team
By Mike Dudurich • March 18, 2022

Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.

Back in the day, when Nathan Smith was chasing golf balls around Pinecrest Country Club, not far from Brookville in northwest Pennsylvania, he wasn’t giving a lot of thought toward having a golf career that some day would culminate with his being named captain of a Walker Cup team.

Well, last week he stopped not thinking about it when he was named the captain of the 2025 United States Walker Cup team, a 10-man unit of amateurs that will compete against a team comprised of players from Great Britain and Ireland.

He will be the first golfer from the West Penn Golf Association and just the third from the state to achieve this honor. William C. Fownes Jr., son of the creator of Oakmont Country Club, was the captain of the first team in 1922, well before the WPGA came into existence.

Smith also joins another elite group from Pa. He became only the fourth native of Western Pa. to have been named captain of a United States team in a major international event. Arnold Palmer captained the 1963 and 1975 U.S. Ryder Cup teams; Carol Semple Thompson was the captain of the 2006 and 2008 U.S. Curtis Cup team and the late Judy Oliver captained the 1992 Curtis Cup team.

“Historically, I understand that there is no greater honor than being named captain of the USA Walker Cup Team,” Smith said. “I am ecstatic at the opportunity to lead this team at such a historic and storied venue. Providing the winning point for the USA during the 2013 match is a memory I will never forget, and that accomplished feeling is something I’m focused on providing for the team in 2025.

The historic venue to which Smith referred is Cypress Point, that hidden jewel on the Pacific Coast not far from another iconic course on the Monterey Peninsula. Golfers around the world have seen pictures of the layout, including the scary 16th hole, a par three that requires a carry over 220 yards to escape the crashing waves between the tee and fairway.

But relatively few folks have seen much else of the course because of the club’s ultra-private policies.

Smith hasn’t seen Cypress Point, either, but will get to play some practice rounds with his team in 2025. He’s no stranger to playing some of the elite clubs in existence. however. When he won U.S. Mid-Amateur titles in 2003, 2009, 2010 and 2012, he earned spots in the Masters the following year.

He played in three Walker Cups: at Merion Golf Club in 2009, the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in 2011 and the National Golf Links of America in 2013. That was the year he picked up the match-clinching point against GB&I.

The list goes on and on, as would be expected for a player of his caliber.

“His being named captain was a long time coming and very well deserved,” said Jay Sigel, one of the three native Pennsylvanians to captain to Walker Cup. “Hearing that made me very happy. I don’t think we ever played against each other, but I certainly saw enough of him to realize what a great player and great person he was.”

Ironically, Smith’s four U.S. Mid-Amateur championships were one more than Sigel. The last of his Masters appearances featured a pairing with Arnold Palmer, who was playing in his 50th Masters.

Smith, 43, won Sigel’s event, the R. Jay Sigel Match Play six times, the same number of times he won the W.C. Fownes Award as the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s player of the year.

There is probably no other golfer on the planet who knows more about Smith and his golf game and his life than long-time friend and rival Sean Knapp. They are long-time practice partners, long-time competitors and long-time jokesters.

“It’s well-deserved, obviously,” Knapp said. “It’s great that he was named at this time while he still had name recognition among the young golfers. He could have been named 10 or 15 years from now and that wouldn’t have been the case. A very smart decision by the USGA.”

In addition to his four Mid-Am titles, Smith also teamed with Todd White in 2015 to win the inaugural U.S. Four-Ball Championship.

When the USGA opted to name both the 2023 (Mike McCoy) and 2025 captains, it most likely took away the opportunity for both men to continue the tradition of a captain having the opportunity to lead a team in both a home and away competition.

But Smith isn’t concerned about that at all. He has already begun to formulate plans for 2025, including starting to think about how he’ll get out and see youngsters who might be on his team three years from now.

“It’s exciting,” Smith said. “When you take a step back, I look at this is being good for the West Penn, the state, the nation. “I never thought I’d have a chance to do that. You always hope, but a lot goes into it. I’m beyond honored.”

There are others who are “beyond” as well: Smith’s parents, Larry and Vicki.

“They are over the moon,” Smith said. “A lot of things, they’ve shared in. Everybody’s been in this together. Dad being on the bag all these years. Mom being at all those events … I want them to be there. It will be an awesome experience for all of us.”

About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.