David Smith acknowledging the crowd after his final putt.

Smith bids farewell to home club with U.S. Senior Open Qualifying spot
By Josh Rowntree, Director of Communications  • May 30, 2024

INDIANA - Even as something ends, you can still find a way to experience a first.

Such is the case for David Smith.

Smith, a member at Indiana Country Club, took the top spot at his home course in the U.S. Senior Open sectional qualifying round Thursday, shooting a 1-under 70 to win by a stroke.

And the accomplishment — the first time Smith has ever qualified to play in a USGA national event — came just in the nick of time.

“Tomorrow is my last day here as a member after 30 years,” said Smith, who fought through tears as he dealt with the moment. “We’re moving to Charleston, South Carolina next week.

“All day I thought, ‘this is my next-to-last round here. Maybe forever. All the emotions — I just stayed calm.”

With three decades of learning the intricacies of the course, Smith put that familiarity to good use, particularly after double bogeying the 4th hole and answering with five birdies in his next seven holes.

“Obviously the course knowledge was huge, just knowing where to hit it and going on past experiences,” said Smith, who also was able to benefit by having Indiana High School senior and reigning WPGA C.R. Miller Match Play champion Trevor Todd as his caddie.

“He’s such an even-keeled kid,” added Smith. “I’ve known Trevor forever and he did a great job keeping me calm throughout the day.”

Coming down the Par 5 18th hole, Smith had a two-stroke lead and needed just a bogey to take the top spot. He was greeted on the 18th green by his fellow Indiana Country Club members — around 20 of them — who cheered him on, even after his approach shot sailed 30 feet past the pin.

“I had no idea (why they were cheering),” said Smith, who deliberately ignored the leaderboard all day. “When they cheered my shot, I thought it was five feet (away). I get up there and I’m 30 feet above the pin. And I’m like, ‘what the hell are they cheering about?’

“Then I left my first putt five feet short, and I really thought, by missing that, I would be out.”

That wasn’t the case, however. Despite the three-putt and bogey, Smith had done enough to punch a ticket to the U.S. Senior Open at Rhode Island’s Newport Country Club June 27-30.

“I’ve played this in my mind for months,” said Smith. “I knew I could do it.”

And another Western Pennsylvanian will join Smith in New England.

Gordon Vietmeier placed second, scoring an even-par 71 to also qualify.

“I haven’t really been getting the ball up-and-down of late” he said. “Today I did when I needed to.”

The two qualifiers not only conquered the field, but also the challenge of Indiana Country Club, which was pummeled with rain and storms Wednesday, but dried through wind and cool temperatures before and during Thursday’s round.

“Hard to believe, really,” said Vietmeier, who has played rounds in Indiana since his college days. “The greens, they were good all day… Remarkable.”

Vietmeier, a member of the Slippery Rock Hall of Fame, had not qualified for a USGA event since 1984 and 1985, when he made consecutive Junior Amateur Championships before winning four straight NCAA Division II titles.

Now, he teaches the game at the Gordon Vietmeier Golf School.

“I had three lessons today,” said Vietmeier, who had to wait over two hours for the final results. “The longer I stood here, I started canceling them one by one. I was kind of stranded in Indiana. But it worked out.”

The third-place finisher was Mt. Lebanon’s Kevin Shields, who shot 1-over and won a playoff over Maryland’s Matthew Ferguson to be the first alternate. Ferguson will serve as a second alternate.

But both Vietmeier and Smith intend on being in Rhode Island late next month, with hopes of competing against the best seniors in the game.

“We’re moving south and the event’s north,” Smith said with a laugh. “So I’ve got to figure all of that out. I’ve never been to Rhode Island. I can’t believe I’m going with all the pros.”

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For media inquiries, please contact WPGA Director of Communications Josh Rowntree.

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 nearly 37,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund and Western Pennsylvania Golf Hall of Fame.