Pittsburgh financial adviser Nathan Smith beat U.S. Amateur co-medalist Lee McCoy in 19 holes Wednesday in the first round of match play at Atlanta Athletic Club.
The 36-year-old Smith, the oldest player left in the field, pulled even with a birdie win on the par-3 17th, matched McCoy — the University of Georgia player junior from Clarkesville, Georgia — with a par on the par-5 18th and won with a par on the par-4 19th.
Last year in the Walker Cup on Long Island, Smith won the deciding point in the United States’ 17-9 victory over Britain and Ireland. He’s a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.
Taylor Moore, the Edmond, Oklahoma, player and Arkansas junior who tied McCoy for medalist honors in stroke-play qualifying, also dropped out. Jesse Heinly of Bend, Oregon, beat Moore 3 and 2.
On Wednesday morning, Smith and Heinly survived a 17-man playoff for the last four match-play spots.
”It was a long day. That was a lot of fun,” said Smith, a 14-time U.S. Amateur participant who won a first-round match for the first time in nine years. ”You know, I think it’s one of those, I was so excited to be there. Kind of nothing to lose and I just got lucky.”
Heinly plays at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon.
”My goal was just to make the match play here,” Heinly said. ”I love playing match play because it wipes the score, just one-on-one. Thought maybe I had a pretty good chance.”
Ryan Moore was the last stroke-play medalist to win the tournament, accomplishing the feat in 2004.
Another playoff survivor, Canada’s Garrett Rank beat fourth-seeded Jimmy Beck of Columbus, Georgia, 1 up. Rank, a 26-year-old hockey referee, made a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the match.
”I knew going into 18, if I could put two good swings on it, or at least give myself a chance to go for the green, that I could make birdie,” Rank said.
The highest seeded player to win was Taiwan’s Cheng-Tsung Pan, a senior at the University of Washington who qualified third. He beat Zach Healy of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, 4 and 2.
Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans, No. 1 in the world amateur ranking, beat Matt Teesdale of Maple Glen, Pennsylvania, 6 and 5. Second-ranked Robbie Shelton of the University of Alabama also advanced, topping Dan Stringfellow of Roselle, Illinois, 2 and 1. Will Zalatoris of Plano, Texas, the Wake Forest-bound player who won U.S. Junior last month, beat Oklahoma State star Jordan Niebrugge 2 and 1.