Smith Wins Mid-Am After Opponent Injures Leg

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USGAWILMINGTON, Del. -- Nathan Smith claimed the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship on Thursday when his opponent Bryan Norton had to retire due to a leg injury on the ninth hole. This is the first time in the 108-year history that the final match was conceded due to illness or injury.
 
Norton, a former PGA player who has been reinstated as an amateur, pulled a calf muscle on the ninth hole while hitting his second shot off a steep incline. He did receive medical attention and tried to continue. He played two more shots, but was unable to continue and conceded the match.
 
'It was probably a good 75-degree incline,' said Norton, of Mission Hills, Kansas. 'It was almost straight up and down. I hit it real solid, but of course you are falling back down and you don't want to fight that. When I came back down, all my weight hit my left leg and it kind of twisted underneath me and my calf muscle popped.'
 
With the win, the 25-year-old Smith becomes the youngest Mid-Amateur champion ever. Greg Puga, the 2000 champion, had been the youngest winner ever at the age of 29.
 
Smith, who was 4-up when Norton retired, earns a 10-year exemption to the Mid- Amateur, an exemption from sectional qualifying for the next two U.S. Amateurs, an exemption from local qualifying for the next five U.S. Opens and historically an invitation to the Masters.
 
'It hasn't even sunk in yet,' said Smith, of Brookville, Pennsylvania. 'I can't even put it into words.'
 
Smith won two of the first three holes to quickly go 2-up. Smith two-putted for par at the fifth while Norton's par save slide by the edge to extend Smith's lead to 3-up.
 
Norton, who played five years on the European Tour and a year on the PGA Tour before regaining amateur status in 1998, nearly holed a birdie chip on the eighth but settled for a par. Smith meanwhile, rolled in a 24-footer for birdie and a 4-up advantage.
 
'Why I wanted to win so badly today is that I've never been able to break through and win something on the national stage,' said Smith. 'I've had a lot of really good finishes and I knew my game was good enough, but the breaks just weren't happening.'