The team of Todd White from Spartanburg and Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh won the first ever USGA Four-Ball Championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
White and Smith topped North Carolina golfers Sherrill Britt and Greg Earnhardt 7&5.
The Spartanburg golfer who is a history teacher at Spartanburg High School was excited knowing that he and Smith would be the first names on the new events trophy.
“Great satisfaction. Great satisfaction, knowing that with Nathan here we’re national champions,” he said. “I think the event actually carries the mantra of the USGA, “For the Good of the Game.” This event is good for the game,” he said.
White and Smith got to the finals after a difficult morning semi-final match. The team beat Austin Connelly and Sam Burns 2&1.
The match was very close with White and Smith holding the lead. White made a 40 foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to close out the match.
“Just trying to help my partner out. He was in there about 20 feet, and I think I was 40 feet. So I told him I’m going to keep this on the high side, because if you lose that one low, you’ve got eight feet coming back. It looked good a long time, and to see it disappear, it was like, whew, we’re in the finals now,” said White.
The momentum carried into the teams final match with Britt and Earnhardt. White started off strong and Smith pitched in with a birdie on the fourth hole. The team had a 4 up lead that never shrank.
“Getting up early was a big, big help. It freed us up to, not really take chances, because you can’t do that here, but just knowing 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,” he said.
White closed out the match with his tee shot on the par-3 13th hole. He was able to get within about three feet of the pin and didn’t have to putt. Britt and Earnhardt conceded the putt and the match.
“I was debating between 6- and 7-iron, and during the course of the week. I guess my partner here learned my game well enough. He said hit the 7. I said, Are you sure? He said, hit the 7, and I hit the 7. Three feet, and then here we are, said White.
The two golfers were teammates on the 2013 Walker Cup team and had competed against one another for years. When the USGA announced the new Four-Ball event the two quickly decided to team up.
“When they announced the event I was saying outside half-jokingly, I think it took me about 20 minutes to call it, and say, hey, let’s do this. I think we might be okay,” recalled White. “I’m glad he did,” added Smith.
Both golfers have had experience playing in USGA championships. Smith won four USGA Mid-Am championships while White was a semi-finalist in the 2012 Mid-Am. Leading up to the Four-Ball tournament White earned a win at the prestigious Azalea Amateur at The Country Club of Charleston.
The victory is a highlight that both golfers say will always be a highlight of their amateur careers.
“For me, it’s up there. We were just talking, and I think I felt more pressure than I had maybe in any of those individual or even with the state thing,” said Smith. “Because you didn’t know where I was going to hit it,” joked White.
” I just didn’t want to let Todd down. So if you’re just playing for yourself, you know, 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,” Smith said.
The winners each got a gold medal from the USGA. They are also exempt into next years event to be played at Winged Foot in New York.
White said he expected to be back at his teaching post on Thursday. He was to catch a red-eye from San Francisco to Atlanta and make the connection to GSP in time to make his 10 am class.
“I don’t talk a lot about golf in the classroom. But the one thing that I do try to do is a lot of the virtues that golf teaches us, I try to instill those in the classroom. I think anyone can look at kids and say, look, hard work pays off. When I go into the classroom I’ll direct them to the website so they can look at it and see what was going on. Hopefully they see first hand that hard work and perseverance does pay off,” concluded White.
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