U.S. MID-AMATEUR: Smith, Rank final will be historical — no matter who wins

No golfer in the 32-year history of the U.S. Mid-Amateur has won the tournament four times. Nathan Smith could be the first to do it today at Conway Farms, in Lake Forest.

Smith, from Pittsburgh, won the national championship for amateurs 25 and over in 2003, 2009 and 2010. He advanced to another final with a 3 and 1 win over Tim Jackson, of Germantown, Tenn., on Wednesday.

Only Canadian Garrett Rank stands in the way of Smith breaking a tie with Jay Sigel, who won three times between 1983 and 1987. Rank and Smith will determine the champion in a 36-hole match that begins at 7 a.m.

Rank, who reached the final with a 1-up victory over South Carolina history teacher Todd White in Wednesday’s semifinals, will be playing for some history, too. He could be the youngest player to win the Mid-Am as well as the first foreign player to do it. Rank turned 25, and eligible for the tourney, three days before this year’s championship started.

Smith, who was the youngest champion when he won his first title as a 25-year-old in 2003, has a 36-4 record in the tourney over the years as he goes after his fourth title.

“Doing it would be unbelievable,’’ said Smith. “But I’m a long way from that. This has been a fun event, and I’ve enjoyed playing it over the years. It means a lot to me just because I care so much about amateur golf. It’s about as pure as it gets.’’

“I’m disappointed,’’ said Jackson, the champion in 1994 and 2001, “but Nathan’s probably the best Mid-Am golfer going these days. I knew beating him would be a tall order.’’

This year’s Mid-Am started with 3,810 entries nation-wide and 264 qualified for the finals that began on Saturday at Conway Farms and Lake Forest neighbor Knollwood Club.

Last of the players with Chicago connections – Dennis Bull (Illinois State alum) and Matthew Mattare (Notre Dame) — bowed out in Wednesday morning’s quarterfinals. So did Californian Casey Boynes, at 56 the oldest qualifier for the finals.