Fields: Lessons Learned While Playing with the Pros

April 24, 2008

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Playing 36 holes with a tour pro is an education you don't quite get watching on television or walking in the gallery. You can hear the sound of the shots and feel the tempo, especially when someone has as fluid a swing as Jerry Pate, our pro Thursday in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf pro-am.

Pate hadn't played a full round in a few weeks because of minor shoulder and knee injuries--he was wearing a neoprene brace on his left knee--but hit some beautiful shots. None was better than his final full shot of the day. On our group's final hole, the par-3 third, Pate's 3-wood from 227 yards into the wind faded about five yards just as he diagrammed it and finished four feet short of the hole.

He made the the birdie with a putter that is older than a lot of players on the PGA Tour, a Wilson Arnold Palmer blade he got in 1971 when he was a freshman at Alabama.

"I haven't used this putter in years," he said. "I won the [1974] U.S. Amateur with it. I won the [1982] TPC with it. I haven't used it on the Champions Tour, but at times I get a little too mechanical with a center-shafted, Ping-type putter. I like a heel-shafted putter at times where I can swing the toe a little


We had another 60 Thursday, for a two-day best-ball net total of 120, which beat 11 teams but was a whopping 14 strokes behind the pro-am winners (Shapiro, Shapiro, Green and Guernsey) who followed up their 51 with a 55.

Pate will be paired with his old Southeastern Conference rival Andy Bean in the tournament proper starting Friday. The Club at Savannah Harbor will be cleared of the amateur flotsam. I go back to work with a few swing thoughts from Pate and a reinforcement that the game they play and the one most of the rest of us play are different beasts.

--Bill Fields