JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- Jerry Pate, this time, was 230 yards from the green, not the 194 yards of his youth, back in 1976 when he came to the 72nd hole needing a par to win the U.S. Open.
There's a stone marker in the rough along the 18th fairway at the Atlanta Athletic Club. It marks the spot from which he hit a 5-iron that would win the Open. Pate, invited to play in this PGA as a special exemption, says he hasn't been to see the marker -- mostly because it's hidden. "They covered it up with bunkers," he said. Not really, but the stone is behind giant mounds added since '76. [#image: /photos/55ad747aadd713143b425aec]|||110811_pate_290.jpg|||
With a 3-wood this time, Pate sent a shot toward the 507-yard par-4 and the fronting pond that was there in 1976, too, though then the hole played 50 yards shorter and the pond was an unkempt mess of grass and mud instead of today's stonewalled beauty of a lake.
In '76, Pate got lucky. All his contenders hit into that same rough, but their balls settled to the bottom of the Bermuda grass, dooming them. Pate's ball somehow stayed on top, begging to be hit. He put it two feet from the flagstick.
This time, his second shot bounced into that pond.
In '76, when he closed the Open with a 68, Jerry Pate was 22 years old.
And now, when he opened the PGA with a 77? You do the math.
(Photo by Getty Images)
-- *Dave Kindred