Brookville's Smith wins third straight West Penn Amateur
Nathan Smith joined an elite group Tuesday at Allegheny Country Club by winning the 109th West Penn Amateur Championship.
The Brookville native and Pittsburgh resident, a financial advisor, became the sixth golfer to win the tournament at least three consecutive years.
He joins Sean Knapp, who won it six consecutive times (1998-2003); Arnold Palmer, four (1949-1952); Bob Reilly, four (1960-1963); W.C. Fownes Jr., three (1909-1911); and John Birmingham, three (1967-69). Smith won at Sunnehanna in 2007 and Bedford Springs in 2008.
"What a great honor this is," Smith said. "There are so many great players on the trophy and in our section. I believe this is the toughest section in the country."
Smith, who fired a 1-under-par 69 and finished at 3-under 207, began the final round 2-under with a two-shot lead. A strong front nine pushed him at 5-under.
But a strong finish by Nathan Sutherland of Oakmont and John Popeck of Washington put pressure on Smith.
Sutherland, who shot a 5-under 65, and Popeck, who shot a 2-under 68, ended the tournament tied for second with a 2-under 208.
"I knew those guys wouldn't quit," Smith said. "The back nine is a lot tougher and I had to get off to a good start."
Smith had four birdies and a bogey (No. 3) on the front nine. He had two bogeys on the back, but recorded pars on the final two holes to win the tournament.
Popeck, a sophomore at the University of Maryland, birdied his final two holes to pull into second.
"I had chances to go even lower, but I missed a couple makeable putts," Popeck said. "It's the second consecutive year I finished second. I'll just go back and try and improve my game, and maybe next year I'll win it."
Sutherland, a graduate of Wyomissing High School near Reading, said he played a solid round. He is a junior at Miami University in Ohio.
"I putted well and hit it pretty good all day," Sutherland said. "I took advantage of what I could. I keep getting closer."
Sutherland finished in the top 10 last year.
"It keeps getting tougher to win because of the competition," Smith said. "I don't know how Sean (Knapp) did it six consecutive times. I have enough second place finishes to him."
Four players, including Smith's cousin, C.G. Mercatoris IV of Brookville, tied for fourth in 212. The others were Artie Fink Jr. of Altoona, who shot a 67, Chad Warmbein of McMurray and David Brown of Pittsburgh.