Jerry Pate shouldered a large load of injuries
Had Jerry Pate avoided having more shoulder surgeries than a hard-hitting safety in the NFL, life on the PGA Tour would have been much sweeter for this 53-year-old professional golfer.
The winner of the 1976 U.S. Open, Pate had seven strong seasons on the PGA Tour that produced eight victories and 15 runner-up finishes, including the 1978 PGA Championship won by John Mahaffey and the 1979 U.S. Open that Hale Irwin took home by two shots.
Pate finished second on the money list in 1980 ($222,976) and 1981 ($280,627), before shoulder problems struck him down three consecutive seasons, leading to a career filled with frustration and rehabilitation. If they knew then what they know now, it's possible Pate wouldn't have gone under the knife six times, including his latest operation last summer.
He's hopeful this will be his final trip to Alabama, where all the top professional athletes go to get their rotator-cuff tears on the road to full recovery. Pate was having a nice run on the Champions Tour last year, where he managed one win in only 14 tournaments entered. He finished 32nd on the money list with $571,358, before yet another operation was performed on his left shoulder to cut short his campaign.
It took him many months of 8-hour-a-day rehab sessions to even hit a drive 150 yards in October. Even with more exercise outings than Richard Simmons in full bloom, Pate is still not 100 percent. But after yesterday's 4-under 68 that left him in a tie for seventh and three shots off the pace entering today's second round of the Turtle Bay Championship, he's encouraged with his progress.
"I'm just blessed to come back from this adversity and hit the ball better than I've ever hit it," Pate said. "I'm not surprised, I'm just joyful, thankful. I went to Dr. Jim Andrews' clinic in Birmingham and worked out 8 hours a day, five days a week for six months. I stayed in his home for four to five months.
"My wife and I were laughing last Sunday night, if people only knew I couldn't even move my arm for two weeks after surgery. I'm thinking back in July that I have to be ready to tee it up in Hawaii in January and I can't move my arm because I have three anchors in my shoulder. It was a lot of work."
Pate believes the biggest difference now in this surgery and the ones he had in 1982, 1985 and 1986 is the rehabilitation process. In those days, the physical therapy wasn't nearly as intense and far-reaching. It's likely he would have recovered much quicker and not watched the end of his PGA Tour come so quickly had he rehabbed properly.
"It wasn't just the extra mile I needed to do, I needed to go the extra 10 miles," Pate said. "It would have taken the load off my shoulder had I done the rehab properly. I still have to work out every day. Lift weights every day. Recovery is a process, not an event. You have to work at it every day. You don't have surgery and then say, 'OK, I had the tooth pulled.' You have to work at it the rest of your life."
Along the rehab road, Pate came in contact with a lot of celebrity athletes, including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. He met many pro football players, who wanted him to show them how to hit a golf ball, but he was forced to take it pretty easy, especially in the early going.
"When I arrived there, Drew Brees was just leaving after five months," Pate said. "The Jacksonville Jaguars running back, Greg Jones, he was there with me for a while. Peyton Manning's defensive safety for the Indianapolis Colts was also there. We had Donovan McNabb, we had Triple H, the wrestler was in there. There were a lot of wrestlers, actually, so it was pretty busy."
Local connections: David Ishii, who failed to qualify for the Champions Tour last year, had quite a showing yesterday in his fifth appearance on the senior circuit. Last year, he finished in a tie for 29th here with a 1-over 217 that earned him a paycheck of $11,100. He also failed to make the cut at the U.S. Senior Open, the Senior British Open and the Senior PGA.
That won't be a problem this weekend for Ishii. He opened with a 4-under 68 yesterday to find himself in a tie for seventh, only three shots off Fred Funk's pace. His local knowledge should help this weekend. If he did win this tournament, he would have a full exemption for 2007.
Honolulu resident Dave Eichelberger fired a 2-over 74 and is tied for 49th. A member of the Oahu Country Club, Eichelberger has lived in Hawaii the last few years after spending many years in his native state of Texas.
Inside the numbers: Funk wasn't the only golfer to manage a bogey-free round. Joining him were Tom Kite (67), Tom McKnight (67), Kiyoshi Murota (67) and Walter Hall (70). Loren Roberts (69) posted his 17th consecutive round under par dating back to last year.
One week after the field averaged 68.829 after the first 18 holes at the MasterCard Championship, that number ballooned to 72.615 yesterday. The hardest hole was the par-3 fourth, with a scoring average of 3.526. There were five birdies, 40 pars, 22 bogeys, 10 double bogeys and one triple by Charles Coody.
Irwin shot a quadruple bogey at the par-4 seventh and Dana Quigley managed a quadruple-bogey nine at the par-5 18th. Irwin went into the water twice en route to his 8. Quigley went into the water three times to post his 9 at the par-5 closing hole.
The easiest hole was the par-4 14th with a scoring average of 3.782. There were 22 birdies, 51 pars and only five bogeys.