Golf-Father: Eschewing a professional career, John Pate has managed to combine amateur golf and family life, much to his satisfaction.
It was the last hole of the 100th SCGA Amateur Championship and all eyes were on John Pate. A longtime SCGA Tournament competitor, Pate had managed an SCGA Tournament of Club Champions victory in 1987 and a lot of close finishes, but never a major win. Rallying back to tie Scott McGihon heading into the final hole of play at Industry Hills GC, Pate had a six-foot putt for the win.
“I remember being extremely nervous over that putt,” Pate says. “There is no doubt my hands were shaking.”
But the then-39-year-old knocked it in, securing what he calls “the biggest win of my career.”
Sixteen years later, Pate is still competing at a high level. Having just recently entered the senior circuit, he won the first major senior amateur tournament he played in, the 2014 California Senior Amateur. The victory helped earn him the 2015 SCGA Senior Player of the Year nod.
Still, the 55-year-old father of two says he didn’t necessarily set himself up well for a career in senior golf. But he also says wouldn’t change a thing.
“Most of my contemporaries are retired or winding down their careers, have their children out of the house; but for us, that’s not the case,” he says. “My son Matthew is 16, my daughter Taylor is 15, and between the two of them they play seven sports in high school. You can imagine our calendar! But I would say that this is the best time of my life.”
With a busy schedule attending high school sporting events, Pate added more to his plate this past year, spotting for his son’s football team, announcing for the baseball games and working as an assistant coach for the golf team.
Being an involved father was important for Pate, who says his dad worked so much when he was a kid that they never really took family vacations or did anything of that nature.
“We tried to make up for it with our own kids,” says Pate, who says his son has developed an interest in golf, his daughter not so much.
For Pate, playing golf was inevitable. Growing up near a golf course, he and his brother Steve would spend all day during the summer playing golf.
“We were so close in age, only a few months apart, and Steve always knew he wanted to be a professional, ever since we were kids,” says Pate. “I was a decent player in college, and turned pro for a bit, but knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
But that doesn’t mean Pate hasn’t reaped the benefits of having a brother with six PGA TOUR wins under his belt.
“I’m really fortunate to have a brother who plays professionally,” says Pate. “It’s opened a lot of avenues for me. It’s led to a lot of neat things.”
For starters, he plays with Steve, now on the Champions Tour, in three pro-scratch events per year. He’s also had the opportunity to play a number of rounds with Tiger Woods and compete against the likes of Phil Mickelson and other top pros.
But when Pate opted to skip a career as a golf professional, he dove into the insurance business with his father. Marrying his wife, Susan, at the age of 26, Pate focused on building a career.
“When the market crashed in 1987, I thought it would be a good time to get into that business,” he says. “It turned out to be a good call. And I like the hours, going to work really early and having the afternoons off. It’s allowed me to play golf.”
Pate’s golf resume continues to grow. Along with numerous SCGA victories, Pate has also qualified for 20 USGA events. This past year, he played in the British Senior Amateur, traveling across the pond with fellow SCGA Tournament players Don DuBois and John McClure.
“I’ve made a lot of friends in these tournaments over the years,” he says. “I think I can be competitive as a senior for another five years or so. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve been so fortunate. I really have a great life.”