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PATE FINDS HIS RANGE, BUT IT'S OFF COURSE.

Byline: KAREN CROUSE

Somewhere along the Olympic Club's Lake Course Thursday, Steve Pate misplaced his swing. He stopped by the lost and found after his first round at the U.S. Open and nobody had turned it in.

So all the Agoura Hills resident could do was storm off to the driving range, where he was a study in displaced anger, beating range balls when everyone knew darn well that what he really wanted to do was take a bulldozer to the 16th, 17th and 18th holes.

Those 1,424 yards were Pate's undoing, turning a resplendent round inside out. He arrived at the 16th tee tied for the early lead at 2-under par and feeling pretty good about himself. He left the scorer's tent less than an hour later seething after signing off on a 2-over-par 72.

The four-shot swing came courtesy of bogeys at 16 and 17 and a double bogey at the par-4, 347-yard 18th. His finish told the story of many players' first rounds on a day when a marine layer parked itself over the course like an irksome spectator and made everything in its midst - players, putters, coffee - cold.

Mark Carnevale, who posted a 3-under-par 67, one stroke behind leader Payne Stewart, was the only player in the 156-man field to successfully elude the bogey man. Pate was one of the few not to feel like the Ice Man had cometh.

Pate, a member of the first group that teed off, was at the driving range for 3-1/2 hours. That was nearly as long as he and playing partners Olin Browne and Grant Waite were on the course. As the afternoon wore on, the temperature dropped appreciably and a wicked wind kicked up chillbumps.

All around Pate, people were reaching for sweatshirts and windbreakers - or apparently their wallets, because inside the USGA merchandise tent warm items were moving faster than some of the putts on the Lake Course's sloping greens.

Pate was one of the precious few who didn't feel the need to add another layer to his short-sleeved shirt. Nature's thermostat may have been turned down ``but not my personal temperature,'' said Pate, who posted three consecutive top-10 finishes at the start of the year but has missed the cut in three of his last five PGA Tour events.

Indeed, it's a small wonder the stares he trained on the heavens after some of his shots down the stretch didn't burn away the fog. On the 18th hole, he looked insulted when his second shot from the shaggy green stuff to the left of the fairway landed in the bunker in front of the green, indignant when his third shot failed to clear the bunker, incisive when his fourth shot stopped 6 feet from the pin, incensed when he missed the bogey putt.

``I was terrible out there,'' Pate deadpanned after hitting over 500 range balls. ``Now I'm mediocre.''

Neither is entirely true. He had a couple of magical moments, chipping in for a birdie on No. 4 and draining a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 9. And he hit a couple hundred really nice shots on the range.

His body language throughout his practice session screamed that he was particularly disdainful of his downswing. Asked if he had worked out the kinks to his satisfaction, Pate quipped: ``Yeah, but I just find new ones.''

At least he could sort of laugh at himself. That's no small thing for a guy whose peers affectionately call him ``The Volcano.''

Pate's eruptions are the stuff of lore, but the way he was snuffing range balls, a few of his fellow players just had to ask, against their better judgment: ``Whaddya shoot?''

On this day, plus-two hardly seemed worth five bags of range balls, much less 10. Seventy-seven players in the field would have given their spare sweater for that score, among them Hale Irwin (80), Sam Randolph (80), Ben Crenshaw (82) and poor Richard Ames (86).

Pate's range rage was rivaled only by Jim Furyk, who spent four hours teeing up practice balls after shooting a 74 that included a double bogey on each nine.

It's a good thing for Pate and Furyk that USGA officials didn't post signs like the ones you find at the gym, usually in the vicinity of the stairmasters and treadmills, that ask you to abide by a 30-minute time limit when people are waiting.

We'll find out today whether or not it's a good thing they're getting another shot at the Lake Course. Pate's strategy is going to be pretty simple.

``I'm going to have to try to hit some good shots,'' Pate said, ``and avoid the same disasters.''
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 19, 1998
Words:780
Previous Article:GLORY DAYS 1997-98 IN REVIEW: BIG YEAR IN SPORTS, ESPECIALLY VOLLEYBALL.
Next Article:NOTES: HART SOFTBALL TEAM WINS HANFORD TITLE.


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