By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nate Smith should have known the prank would have consequences.
Earlier this week, he hid a walkie-talkie in James Hahn's golf bag and started talking to his buddy while he hit balls on the range at the Quail Hollow Club.
"He couldn't figure out who it was," Smith said. "We were getting a kick out of it, but it was driving him nuts."
Smith finally 'fessed up and Hahn figured out a way to get payback. He put a little sign on Smith's brand new golf bag -- flown in special after he Monday-qualified for the Wells Fargo Championship -- that said: For charity auction. All players please sign the bag.
"So people started signing it, which is like, you know, kind of a little embarrassing when you're playing as a Monday qualifier," Smith said sheepishly. "You don't want people to be making fun of you. But I kind of had it coming from James, so it's all in good fun. I'll be getting him back. So don't you worry about that."
Smith may have the last laugh anyway after firing a 67 that left him tied for the lead with with Rory McIlroy, Ryan Moore, Nick Watney, Robert Garrigus, Derek Ernst and Daniel Summerhays. He would have owned the lead alone, too, had it not been for a bogey at the 17th hole. Not bad for a guy who only has conditional status on the Web.com Tour.
Smith, a Californian who graduated from Duke, said he counted up the signatures before he teed off.
"I think there are like 60 on there, and the best one might be the one that says 'happy birthday,' because it's definitely not my birthday until August 7th," he said. "But I saw like Stuart Appleby's on there because it says 59. Then Camilo's got one on here that's kind of cool.
"It's hard to make them out, because I haven't checked them out. I was busy playing golf. But I'll try to do something with the bag afterwards. Maybe I actually will put it towards charity now that I've used it or give it to somebody to keep it around for myself."
Smith has played in five Web.com Tour events this year and his tie for 29th last week in Valdosta was his best finish of the season. He three-putted the last hole to fall out of the top 25 which would have gotten him into this week's Stadion Classic -- but it may turn out to be a good omen given his performance so far at Quail Hollow.
"I played well the last round at Valdosta and was able to shoot 69 and jump up the leaderboard a little bit," Smith said. "And that was a big, long golf course so it gave me a little indication of what we'd be facing this week with the wet conditions.
"So hopefully it's going to be a place where I turn a corner."