Smith defeats Rank 1-up at Mid-Am Championship
Team Canada member falls on penultimate hole after valiant comeback from 3-down
Published on Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012 05:22PM EDT Last updated on Friday, Sep. 14, 2012 07:40AM EDT
A valiant comeback by Garrett Rank ultimately came up one hole short as Nathan Smith captured a record fourth U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship on Thursday, 1-up.
Down by three with six holes to play, Rank from Elmira, Ont., made a four foot par putt on the 31st hole, birdied the 32nd hole and made par on the 33rd hole to bring the match back to all-square with three holes to play.
On the penultimate hole, the par-3 17th, after missing the green off the tee, Rank's chip shot left him a 30-footer for par which he failed to make to go 1-down with one to play.
“I had the momentum at the time so I was just trying to go with it,” said Rank, who missed a 15-footer for birdie on the final hole to extend the match.
“I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm not disappointed but a week, 10 days down the road, I'm going to have a huge smile on my face and be really happy with what I achieved this week.
“It would have been nice to win, but finishing second isn't half bad, either.”
The 34-year-old Smith becomes just the 15th person in USGA history to win the same championship at least four times, joining a list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Mickey Wright and Bob Jones.
“Any time you can say that you've done something that nobody else has, no matter what it is – sports or life or anything – it feels pretty surreal,” said a clearly overwhelmed Smith.
Rank, a member of Team Canada who turned 25 just three days before the start of the tournament, was looking to become the youngest player and first non-American to win the title and with it an exemption into next year's Masters.
In morning play, Rank and Smith were all-square through eight holes before Rank's 10-foot par putt on No. 9 missed to the left, putting Smith 1-up. On th next hole, Rank found the hazard and missed his chip-in for bogey, conceding the hole to Smith. More trouble again for Rank on the par-3 11th as he found the water off the tee but almost holed his third shot from the drop zone. Smith made his three-footer for par to take a 3-up lead.
After halving the next three holes, Rank found the green on the 331 yard 15th with his tee shot and drained a 43-foot eagle putt to cut the deficit to two. On the 16th, Smith missed a five-footer for par to give another hole back. Smith missed a golden opportunity to go 2-up on the final hole when his birdie attempt came up just short.
“Nathan and I both didn't have our best stuff out there this morning,” said Rank. “I managed to stay alive, being only one down going into the afternoon.”
While Rank missed out on the Masters exemption, his second place finish earns him a return invitation to next year’s Mid-Amateur, a full exempt into the 2013 U.S. Amateur, the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links and an exemption from local qualifying for the 2013 U.S. Open Championship.