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Smith turns a good laugh into a great cause

May 22, 2013

By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR staff

Update: $4,200 was raised for the "Boredom Busters" program at Boston Medical Center through Nate's Ebay auction.

Since turning pro in 2006, Nate Smith has played in but a few events on the PGA TOUR - 25 to be exact. Conditionally exempt on the Tour, the 2006 Duke University grad tried to Monday qualify for last month’s Wells Fargo Championship, admittedly his favorite event on TOUR. With a 7-under 63, good for co-medalist honors, Smith was in and on golf’s grandest stage for the week.

Smith and PGA TOUR rookie James Hahn have a history together. Since age 13, they’ve played together in Northern California and even stayed together at mini tour events. And last month in Charlotte, they were playing in the same PGA TOUR event for the first time. To Smith, a bit of fun at Hahn’s expense seemed only fitting.

In a practice round together, Smith hid a two-way radio in Hahn’s golf bag. Smith kept control of the other radio. At otherwise inopportune times throughout the round (back swings, down swings, etc.), Smith would bark advice to James into his device, perplexing Hahn as to where the audio was coming from, let alone who was doing the talking. At day’s end, Smith came clean and the two shared a good laugh. Hahn, however, warned of retribution.

When Smith’s brand new Odyssey golf bag arrived in front of his locker room at Quail Hollow that week, Hahn saw his opportunity. Four words on a piece of paper was all it took; “Please sign for charity.”   Quickly, it became not what was in the new bag that got the attention, but what was on it.

All for a good cause they presumed, nearly 70 players drew their Sharpies and obliged.

“People just started signing it, which is a little embarrassing when you’re there playing as a Monday qualifier,” admitted Smith. “I was afraid the guys would start making fun of me, but it was all good.”

In fact, it was all good. Smith opened with a 5-under 67 to take a share of the first-round lead with, among others, 2010 Wells Fargo Championship winner Rory McIlroy. And yes, McIlroy’s name was also autographed on the bag. 

Smith would struggle the next three days, finishing T50 after ensuing rounds of 74-77-73. But in keeping with the spirit of the game, he left Quail Hollow with a good attitude…and a great idea.

“I’ve always wanted to contribute and give to charity,” Smith said. “I decided that auctioning off this golf bag would be a good, fun way to raise some money.”

Smith admits the back-and-forth pranks at Quail Hollow trumped his on-course performance at garnering attention, but he’s ok with that. “Sure, I’d rather people know me for my golf game,” Smith said. “But, I have this avenue known as the PGA TOUR where I can give back. That is something I’ve really wanted to do for a long time.”

So, what exactly is he going to do with it? Well, when word spread that he wanted to auction the bag on eBay, sponsors jumped in to sweeten the pot. Travis Matthew, a clothing partner of Smith’s, has included a “signature outfit,” which is comprised of clothing to cover the individual from head to toe. In addition, Callaway has donated an entire set of new clubs. The winning bidder brings home all three elements to the package.

Money raised from the sale of the package will go to a project called “Boredom Busters,” an endeavor started by a friend of Smith’s at Boston Medical Center.

The idea behind “Boredom Busters” is to provide activities and outlets for children in hospitals to make their experience more pleasant. From the creation of libraries to playgrounds, the goal of “Boredom Busters” is simply to provide hospitalized children with pleasant distractions. Time for anyone in a hospital is often associated with emotional and/or physical challenges, let alone the time of a child.

“I’ve never really had the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life before,” Smith said. “There are a lot of other players out here with bigger names who do this all the time. I’m grateful for the PGA TOUR to provide people like me the platform to help make this happen. It’s an amazing opportunity and I know it will work.”

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