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February 26, 2006

Jerry Pate


DAVE SENKO: Jerry, congratulations. A couple of announcements, you win $240,000, 240 Charles Schwab Cup points and of course you now earn a trip to the MasterCard Championships next year. With that, maybe talk about the win, first time since THE PLAYERS Championship in 1982.

JERRY PATE: Well, it's been a lot of dedication, really, to have your career end with one swing back in 1982. Had surgery in '85, '86, '87 and in 2003, I had it right before I was supposed to come out and make my debut in September, I had it that summer, and stayed for five months in Birmingham and rehabbed with Jim Andrews who did my surgery. I stayed with Jim and Janelle. Did a lot of soul searching, a lot of playing, prayed to God to give me a second chance. A lot of tears, you know, especially back in the 80s. Not really on this tour, but when you had such a good start at age 28 and end your career, you just give up, basically, it's a long road.

But I guess, you know, I really always thought with an injury, it would affect my ball striking but I've been hitting the ball so well, so maybe confidence is all it was. Two years ago I bogeyed the hole to lose and last year,300 drive in the center of the fairway and should have hit 5 iron and laid up. Coming down the stretch today, I had 5 iron, I really thought it was a 6 iron, no, just hit a little 5 iron, your 5 iron is the best club in your bag and hit it about 12 feet into that wind. Then coming uphill into the grain, right to left breaker, probably my least favorite putt under pressure, and to make it, I don't know how in the world it went in.

Q. What club?

JERRY PATE: 5 iron.

Q. What distance?

JERRY PATE: I don't remember, like 167 or something, 165, somewhere around there. But it's a humbling game. And to have to stand out every day I get up, I do at least an hour every day before I play and I work out about four or five days a week on my shoulder. Actually in my right shoulder, I have loose shoulder joints and have had four surgeries on this one, so I have to really work on my physical conditioning to be competitive.

But today, gosh, the second hole, I hit perfect tee shot on 1 and got a chance for birdie on 1 and had a 5 iron on 2 almost went in for a hole in one, went six feet by and I made birdie. 3, I hit a big drive and little wedge about 15 feet and I 3 putt, I missed putt about two feet and I'm going, "Oh my God, that's probably going to be the putt," how your mind works; it costs me the tournament.

Probably the shot that one tournament for me was on 12. I hit a 6 iron over the green and hit a very poor shot probably other than this ball I had three 3 putts this week, three or four 3 putts. I had four 3 putts I think. I drove it in the water on 8 in the first rounds and still shot 68 68 66. But I struck it extremely well, and putted kind of average, compared to what I think I'm capable of putting. But I made some key short putts and I think that kept me in the game.

But the shot on 12 was really the worst shot I hit all day and I dropped it, the ball embedded just short of the bunker and I've got no shot over the bunker and I dropped it, the ball rolled into the mud and I had no shot. Now I thought for a second, well, as muddy as it is, hit it like a bunker shot and I hit a full blast shot from about 100 feet and blasted up about four feet and made birdie and that was the difference. I parred the next, birdied the next. I had chances at birdies on holes coming in, 15, 17, 17. I hit probably the best putt I ever hit to miss a putt. It looks like Mark James is going to miss so I can make and I can take a one shot lead, so then the last hole, I could hit the green and make par.

I didn't dream I would have to make birdie to win. I look at the leaderboard and I see Irwin is still there like a bad dream, an old dog and you can't shake him off. He's unbelievable. People don't realize how great of a player Hale Irwin is. He's there every time. To come in there and make that putt was like, it was magic, is all I can say.

You know, I am a good putter. I heard on Golf Channel for three years saying he's the best ball striker out here, I've had about eight caddies, they all say he's the best ball striker, just make the putts. Well, I am a good putter. I won the putting stats back in 1980 or 1981, you don't do that without being a good putter. You don't lose your putting; you just lose your confidence. I lost my confidence when I quit playing and I came back out here with not much confidence putting and I've had to build and grow from one miss after another and just keep my faith, really.

It is a battle, I promise you, I know it sounds cliche with being the Champions Tour, but I promise you, this is a very unbelievably competitive sports arena. It's unbelievable. It's competitive as anything a lot more competitive than the PGA TOUR was 20 years ago. You've never seen anything like it. The guys play better, they don't give up, it's a horse race, they don't make many mistakes, they are all seasoned veterans, they are not nervous, it's just boom, boom, boom. You never walk into a tournament out here because you have to win one.

It's been a tough battle, and, you know, as I said, a lot of tears and a lot of self doubt, and a lot of support. If I family, Tom Randall, the chaplain on the Senior Tour, every Friday we go to the family tour ministry. Hale Irwin goes there, too. We all go there, it's about our families and health. Once you get over 50, people start praying about health, not about making birdies. It's really brought everything together as a family on the Champions Tour. It's a great place to make a living out here.

Q. What was your shot sequence on 7?

JERRY PATE: I hit the green in two, driver and a Adam's idea, what do you call it, one of those hybrid clubs. I hit it about 230 and I hit it in about 30 feet and 2 putted.

Then where else, on 10, I hit driver and sand wedge from about 65 yards to about five feet. Made birdie.

Then 12, I wedged it up about five feet.

14, I hit driver and a 4 iron on the par 5 and really kind of leaked it right where I wanted it and had, probably, again one of my best shots I hit all day, an 8 iron bump and run to about two feet and made birdie. Then it was a good ball striking day for me.

Yesterday was much better, and probably Friday was better, but today was a tougher day. So I just kept it in play and just let my strengths carry me to the 18th hole and give myself an opportunity to have to make the putt.

Q. You admitted to scouting out the water hazard there on 18 the spontaneity of the dive, can you talk about the significance of being able to do it and the thought of wanting it do it?

JERRY PATE: Well, you know, it's really I'm very happy for Mike Green when I won the PGA. It meant probably more to Mike than to me other than a few emotional tears. That was huge in his career.

You know, I haven't laid up in my life. I'm a pretty aggressive individual. To sit there and lay up and lose the tournament, it was disheartening. But to come to this course knowing it's a ball striker's tournament, I thought I could win here the last two years, just never holed a putt. I looked at the lake, oh, what the heck. There's not a better sponsor on the Champions Tour than the Outback. They go all out for this event. It's a great golf town, great golfing state and you can't have a better mix than Outback as your sponsor. There's no question, the history of all these guys. They live on the edge, and they are pros at what they do. They are the best at what they do. I thought it would be fun with Chris or Bob or any of them, pick them up. I thought about picking them up and throwing them in the leg. I said, you know, he's 52, you're liable to blow a knee out or get a hemorrhoid or something. Hell, if I was 28 and I picked up Pete Dye and just, boom, off the walls at TPC and here comes the Commissioner, boom, you get adrenaline going, there's nothing to it. There's a little too much ceremony. I said, auto I'm not sure I'm strong enough to pick him up.

I thought it would be great for the Champions Tour. We have a great tour. We need some excitement and some energy out here. And this can be good for the Champions Tour. It's fun out here. We have a great time. But you have to have the support of the community to build the electricity of the fans. Gosh, birdieing 16 yesterday was the most fun thing I did all week. You had the fans there, I'm hitting the ball right behind the hole, a little 9 iron, I can't remember what I hit, like a 9 iron and everybody is going "left edge, left edge." And my caddie, when I knocked it in, he said, what was it, I said, I listened to all those drunks, they have been sitting there all day drinking, they know whether it goes in on the right. That was great. And without out back and the community support, and what Amy does here, you don't have that energy.

The only thing the Champions Tour is missing in one or two events is energy, and it takes people to create energy. And we're getting there. We're getting more support from the media. We're having more fun. We have great players out here and these are fun guys. But as a player, you build off the spectators, and as they broadcast an event, they build off the energy, too.

So you can't have a cynic like that when there's three people in the stands. That made it, for me. Making the putt, sitting there looking at everybody in the stands, you're kind of like, watch this. So you've got to have it there. That's the only thing we're lacking at a few events and we're getting there and our best tournaments have great fan support and community support.

Q. Inaudible?

JERRY PATE: Oh, I threatened to throw him in. I thought, you know, they do so much for this community, let's have a civilized ceremony, instead of it's 40 degrees out there, don't let's catch pneumonia standing around in a wet pair of pants and getting the accolades of the award. Let's get it over with and throw him in. It was fun.

Q. Obviously a lot has been said about your career being cut short with injuries, was the actual injuries themselves with the shoulder more painful or was it the thought of what could have been?

JERRY PATE: You know, I still have never gone back and thought of what could have been. I said this many times, guys, look what I was able to do. I worked eight years in television, I built 30 plus golf courses, I've owned and operated golf courses, utility companies, $10 million bond issues on Tour plants, I own a business that has 150 employees and sells lawnmowers and irrigation in six or seven states a thousand across. I have a great family, I have kids that have turned out to be good citizens and a wonderful wife who neither of our lives have been perfect and we've built off each other with each other's support.

We've had it's never perfect. Life isn't perfect and you take your bads and you build off of them. You keep trying to be better at what you do and you try to be a good citizen. I was able, you know, again, God had a plan for me. I was able to do a lot of things and give a lot of support to a lot of people and give a lot of people jobs and learn a lot about people other than knowing about myself.

You come out win the U.S. Amateur at 20 and U.S. Open at 22 and Canadian Open and you're Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, you come back and win the first tournament next year and on and on, youngest guy to win THE PLAYERS Championship in '82 and the hole in ones and all of that, you think you can do no wrong. It's a huge, deflated ego buster when you get hurt and all of a sudden you are gone. You're like a Heisman Trophy guy blowing his knee out and you can't run anymore. You know you want to did it, but you have to say your prayers and ask for guidance from a higher power and go about it, try to be a leader or something else.

I'm honest. I've done so many things that these other guys probably would not have had the opportunity to do that have been so satisfying that none of them feel sorry for me and I don't feel sorry for myself. They are probably excited that I won, but on the other hand, I'm going to work tomorrow. I mean, I've got to go to Pensacola, my sod farm is getting ready to sell sprigs for putting greens and sod for golf courses coming up. Monday I'll be in the office and I'll have meetings and I'll hit a few balls, and Tuesday I'll be at the Country Club (ph) that I'm rebuilding and my home course that the hurricane demolished. So I've got things to do.

So I'm not letting any hair grow on my head too much. I'm not bored. I'm just excited to be able to come back and do something I love and that's play golf. And you know, I love it make people happy. I enjoy people. I couldn't have been happier for Mark James; all day, he played great. I'm sure if you'd have asked him, boy, I was pushing him and he was pushing me, we're good friends. Gosh, Mark James in the Walker Cup in 1975, we've been playing for 30 plus years. And Larry Nelson, I idolize Larry Nelson, he's one of the finest Christian guys, and Joe Theisman, one of my heroes in sports; and you're playing with Joe and he's giving me the high five and last nine holes, he's telling me, "You're going it win it, I know it," and he's pushing me.

So sports is great. It's hard, and I've been inside the ropes and have been outside the ropes. I've been in the media; I did eight years, five years with ABC I did about six years with CBS, and I did BBC for two years. I know what it's like being at your job and trying to create an interest in something you're getting paid to cover. It's a tough business. But there's no more pressure than playing golf, you're by yourself, it's just pressure packed.

Again, I don't know how in the hell Hale Irwin does it. That's the first round I played with Hale Irwin was the 1975 U.S. Open and I was paired and he was defending champ of the Open and I was the Amateur champ and Gary Player was defending British. So we played together that day and he was meaner than a snake that day as tough as he was today; he just wants to win. I'm proud of him, you know, for his accomplishments. To be able to beat him coming down the stretch, that means a lot to me.

Q. When you go as long as you have without so many victories and the setbacks, what kept you wanting to come back, to get to this point?

JERRY PATE: You know, if you go back and look at my record, it was pretty strong, but as strong as that was, I still felt like it was unfinished business, I had something to prove. You know, that's what keeps you coming back is, you know, right here in your heart. That's the thing that brings you back is what is in your heart.

Really, again, as I said, I like to entertain people. I'm a people person. I like to make people happy. I get my feelings hurt when you're nice to people and they are not nice to you. I try to be nice to people, even though I've been pretty cocky and brash in my younger days in my career and maybe said things to other players not trying to be hurtful and spiteful but just kind of jokingly as a competitive player. But I feel just blessed to be able to come out here and play again. To do this, it's pressure, and I've come close, but to win one, and on a hard golf course this is a great golf course. I'm telling you, this is probably the best TPC golf course of all TPCs, as tough a test as the one in Jacksonville, it's a great golf course.

Q. Did you realize how deep the water was?

JERRY PATE: No. I had in clue. At least when I took the first dive in '81, I knew it was somewhere about five or six feet and didn't hit bottom. TPC, I asked Pete Dye the day before and Alice and she said about five or six feet; it was like this deep, you could stand up. And he said it was perfect, no rocks, no nothing, flat bottom.

I had no clue. That one looked like it was a little deeper. In fact, we need to get a little Caterpillar 330 hoe in there and clean it out. It was shallow. In Florida where I grew up, I used to dive for balls in places like that. I know what the muck on the bottom is like. All that was manufactured, so I knew it just had to be silt on the bottom and that's what it was.

Q. Would you have any thought about trying to qualify for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot this year?

JERRY PATE: Qualify for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot? You know, I don't know. I might try. Winged Foot is a great test. Might be a little too long. These guys hit it so far it's a joke. But if I was exempt, I'd probably play in it. But qualifying, I don't know. That's probably not something, I'm not going to worry about that. I'll go shoot quail tomorrow and check out the grass on my farm tomorrow in north Florida. I'm holding up Loren Roberts, can you imagine, I get to fly home with him, a guy that's won three times. He's dropping me off on the way in his plane.

End of FastScripts.

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