One of the overarching narratives of recent years in professional golf has been the near-domination of the game by 20-somethings. From Jordan Spieth having an all-time-great year in 2015 at the age of 21 and 22 to great performances this decade by Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and other young guns, it's looking like golf is increasingly a young man's game.
But this isn't a new phenomenon. Jerry Pate won the 1976 U.S. Open at the age of 22, and racked up seven more PGA Tour victories, capped off with the Players Championship in 1982, when he dove in the pond beside the 18th green at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course in celebration.
Injuries derailed Pate's subsequent career, but that prompted him to seek other avenues of influence in golf. Today, the Jerry Pate Company is one of the largest dealers of Toro-brand products, including many of the machines that golf courses employ for maintenance. Pate has also forged a quietly successful golf course design career along with longtime partner Steve Dana.
With an interesting life story and affable demeanor, Pate is an excellent storyteller with great insight into the game of golf. With the 2019 U.S. Open around the corner, Golf Advisor Senior Writers Bradley S. Klein and TIm Gavrich sat down with both Pate and Dana to talk about major championship golf, architecture and more on the site of their latest project, an interesting hybrid renovation/restoration at the Country Club of Mobile in Alabama.
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Some topics from the conversation:
- Pate talks about his quick rise from University of Alabama “fraternity kid” (and U.S. Amateur champion) to successful touring pro.
- A past Players Champion, Pate talks about his relationship with Pete Dye, also announcing that his firm will be stewarding Dye’s courses at Casa de Campo going forward.
- Pate discusses the importance of understanding golf course architecture as a tool for shooting lower scores, not just for pros, but for all golfers.
- Shifting gears somewhat, Pate discusses the other avenues he pursued in the wake of career-threatening injuries, including maintenance equipment sales and broadcasting.
- Pate explains his favorite things about his home Gulf Coast region.
- Pate’s main golf course design associate, Steve Dana, discusses the unique challenge they tackled at the Country Club of Mobile, a course originally designed by Donald Ross but with little in the way of original plans on which to base a restoration.
- Dana details his path into golf course design, which, like Pate’s, involves Pete Dye as well as Tom Fazio.
- Dana talks about his and Pate’s use of a somewhat unusual grass, Bahia, for the Country Club of Mobile rough areas.