John Pate grabs lead at California Senior Amateur with 69
John Pate
John Pate

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2014) — After going 4-over through his first four holes, the last thing Santa Barbara resident John Pate thought about was winning. Instead, he turned his attention to simply making the cut.

“As we walked to my fifth hole, I told my caddie that if we just made bogeys the rest of the way, we’d maybe break 90,” Pate said.

As it turned out, the recently turned 55-year-old will head into Wednesday’s final round of this week’s annual CGA Senior State Amateur Championship at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course as the leader.

Despite the rough start, Pate, the brother of professional Steve Pate, went on to card a 2-under 69 on Tuesday, giving him a four stroke lead over Modesto’s Jeff Burda witha two-day total of 1-under 141.

Starting on the back-nine, Pate opened with a double-bogey on No.10 and back-to-back bogeys on holes No.12 and No.13. From there, however, he’d play the recently renovated Poppy Hills layout at 6-under.

It wasn’t until on his sixth hole of the day, the par-3 15th, that Pate sensed that his fortunes would turn. And that was after missing an 8-foot birdie attempt. A hole earlier on the 14th, he finally stopped the slide with a birdie.

“I missed the putt on No.15 but suddenly felt a lot better,” said Pate, who was runner-up at the 1995 California State Amateur. “I told myself to just be patient.”

Suddenly back in somewhat of a groove, Pate went on a tear. He’d birdie the 17th to finish with a front-nine 37. On the tougher Poppy Hills front-nine, he’d go 4-under starting with birdies on No.2 and No.4. On No.2, he sank a 20-footer, while on the 4th he almost holed out his wedge shot from 60 yards out. The assault continued later, as he tack on a birdie on No.7 after hitting his 9-iron to within 7 feet of the flagstick. On the 8th, he’d stiff an 8-iron to within 3 feet for another birdie.

Pate had a chance to go even lower, but he had to settle for a par on the par-5 9th.

“It turned out to be a pretty nice round,” Pate said. “I really didn’t expect it after that start. I just kept trying to make good swings.”

Before Pate’s huge turnaround, it appeared that Burda would be the leader. One of only two players to win the championship three times (Jim McMurtrey is the other) and the only player to win the California State Senior Amateur three times in a row (2008-2010), Burda followed up an opening 73 with a 72 to get to 145.

Like Pate, Burda got off to a somewhat sluggish start after carding a 2-over 38 on the front-nine. After making the turn, he’d go 1-under thanks to birdies on holes No.10 and No. 14.

“I hit a few good shots and I didn’t get rewarded for them,” said Burda, who is looking to become the first four-time winner of the championship. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I feel good about my game.”

First round leader and defending champion Jim Knoll, who took the lead Monday with a 71, slipped back into a tie for third at 146 following a 75. A day after penciling in four birdies, the record four-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year could only muster one, that coming on the par-4 5th.

“I just didn’t putt as well,” said Knoll, who is aiming to join McMurtrey and Burda as the only players to win back-to-back titles. “It was perfect scoring conditions out there. It was just a struggle.”

Also at 146 is four-time NCGA Player of the Year and 2012 champion Casey Boyns of Monterey. The California Golf Hall of Fame member was even through his first 14 holes after carding birdies on the 11th and 14th wasn’t able to carry the momentum all the way in, finishing with a 74. The longtime Pebble Beach caddie closed with a bogey on the 16th and a double-bogey on the 17th after hitting his tee shot into the hazard.

“I was hitting some really good irons. It’s been a long time since I’ve hit my irons that well,” Boyns said. “After that double at 17 though, I was just trying to get home.”

At eight shots behind Pate is record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag of San Francisco. Haag, who is making his California State Senior debut, had a 74 to land at 149,

Others still in the hunt include Ron Johnson and Texas resident John McClure who are both at 150 following identical rounds of 74.

In the North/South Challenge Senior Cup, the NCGA retained the title, defeating the SCGA, 436-456. The NCGA squad was comprised of Boyns, Burda, Knoll and Dan Bieber, while the SCGA team was made up of David Delich, Kemp Richardson, Iain McDonald and Michael Turner.

The cut (low 33 and ties) came at 14-over 156. Wednesday’s final round is slated to tee off at 7:20 a.m.

ABOUT THE California Senior Amateur

The California Senior Amateur Championship began in the fall of 1992, and is the state championship for players age 55 and over. The first two tournaments were played at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. In 1994, the event was moved to Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, and in 1995, a simultaneous NCGA vs. SCGA team portion of the championship was added. Starting in 2010 this 54-hole stroke play championship will rotate to selected courses throughout the state. Players must have an index of 7.4 or less and may attempt to qualify at any location in the state.

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