Nate Smith: “My First Round on the PGA Tour”
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Nate Smith reacts to draining a putt at the WNB Golf Classic for his first Nationwide Tour victory last September

One day PGA Tour rookie Nate Smith goes fishing and jumps off cliffs into the Pacific Ocean with a spear in hand. The next, he plays in his career-first round on the PGA Tour and shoots five-under 65 (T2) at Waialae Country Club to kick off the Sony Open. No big deal. Check out Nate’s account of his day.

I started this morning with a large order of pancakes, obviously. They really give you large portions here. I ate like half of two of them. After that, I came out to the course and it was just a much-anticipated day. We’ve been waiting for it for a long time. During the off-season, you know you’ve made the PGA Tour, but until you get out there to play, it doesn’t really set in — until you stand on that first tee, hit that first shot and then you walk inside the ropes, it becomes a lot more special.

On the first tee I was getting ready and I was thinking, well this is like every other tournament. Then I stood up over the first tee shot, and I thought, “Alright, son, this is the PGA Tour. Time to get it going!” But I hit a really good tee shot down the middle. I was just trying not to snap hook it left or hit it in the houses on the right.

There are some thoughts that creep in your head every once in a while. But I got really comfortable out there. I was a little nervous and my heart was pounding, but I’ve dealt with it in so many situations over the past year — the nervous feelings are going to be there. Everyone goes through them. It’s whether you choose to accept them or not. I enjoy it, it’s an adrenaline rush, so it’s fun.

We looked over at one hole and somebody, who shall remain nameless, had just hit a tree off the right side, so I look at the guy we were playing with — he didn’t speak very much English; he’s Japanese — he goes, “Oh, very bad tee shot! Amateur!”

Then we walked by Duffy Waldorf’s group. They were going to No. 18 tee and we were going to No. 12. He goes, “Oh look at the flatbill!” They were flattening out their bills, making fun of me, but it’s all good.

I didn’t hit it that great to start out. I was in the rough, scrambling and getting up-and-down. Then I made a birdie finally on the ninth hole. I hit some good shots and then I made a side-winding 15-footer, which got me going. I hit a wedge shot on the next and made birdie. From there on, I hit really solid golf shots all the way.

I kept surprising myself by making birdies and all of a sudden, I was on 18 with a little tap-in for another. I looked up and saw the scoreboard, which said I had two feet and the tour average was 99.8%. I was like, “Oh gosh, I hope I don’t make that 99.6%.”

I put myself in good position (on the greens) and I made a couple of 20-footers. My caddie Brian (Bone) always had us underneath the hole. Even though the course is relatively flat at Waialae, you still have some influence from the mountains. Staying beneath the hole is really important because you can be so much more aggressive with your putts and that was something we did well all day. That was probably the key to my success.

I try to go look at the ocean, it’s such a beautiful place here. There’s a couple holes where you can walk off the side of the green and look out at the ocean. I don’t know if people think I’m tripping, but it’s cool. The tournament is very young, but it’s not a bad way to start off the week. It’s pretty exciting that I shot 65. I wish I wouldn’t have made that one bogey! To come out and shoot five-under in my first PGA Tour event after waiting so long, it’s a really great feeling. But I feel like I belong here and this is where I should be, so I feel like I can compete. While it does feel awesome, it feels like something I’ve prepared myself for.

No cliff-jumping spearfishing adventures today. In retrospect, (jumping off a 20-foot cliff into the ocean with spears) was pretty dumb. Getting pushed against rocks felt kind of sublime. We’re going to go ahead and blame my friend Jake (Grodzinsky) for that. He jumped in the water first. We were thinking, “This is going to be fun, it’s going to be an adventure.” But you know, we didn’t want to end up bloody dead. I won’t be trying that again.

Anyway, I went swimming and fishing again after I left the golf course. I had another big one on the line and it got away! Today was awesome — I shot 65 in my first PGA Tour event, but letting the big fish get away sucked big time!