By David Rogers. August 15, 2016. BLOWING ROCK, NC — It’s hard to imagine a 10-year-old girl driving a golf ball farther than a lot of grown men. Well, let your imagination run amok. The High Country may have to name its own Thanksgiving Day parade after Macy Pate.
COVER IMAGE: Macy Pate, 10, is about to help the golf ball find its way a LONG way down the driving range at Boone Golf Club. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
The daughter of Blowing Rock Landscape Specialist Chris Pate and law firm staffer Martha Pate (Deal, Moseley & Smith, LLP), this lean wisp of a young girl with matchless confidence strikes the ball straight and true down the driving range somewhere around 200 yards: time after time after time.
Competitively, she is on the cusp of outstanding. On Saturday, Macy outpointed a field of 19 qualifiers for the Drive Chip & Putt Sub-Regional Competion at Whitsett, NC’s The Club of Stoney Creek (near Greensboro) in the 10-11 year old Girls Division. With three drives, three chips and three putts, she tallied 123 points, besting second place golfer Catherine Qiu’s (Ashburn, VA) 115 points. Third place barely broke 100.
Both qualify to advance to the Super-Regional competition at Pinehurst No. 2 on September 4th after beating a sub-regional field that included young linksters from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. (Pssst…Don’t tell anyone, but Ms. Pate also outpointed all of the 12-13 year-old sub-regional girl qualifiers competing at Stoney Creek on Saturday — and only 11 points behind the 10-11 AND 12-13 BOY qualifiers).
If her game is “on” in three weeks and she wins at Pinehurst? Well, let’s just say her Daddy — who doubles as her coach — is REAL excited because it means he gets to watch her play at the 2017 National Drive Chip & Putt event held in conjunction with The Masters next April, at Augusta National Golf Course.
She’s taken to golf like a duck takes to water.
No Plausible Explanation Except…
“I’m tickled to death that she has qualified for the larger regional and gets to play at Pinehurst,” said Chris, “but if it works out that she wins Pinehurst and gets to go to Augusta, then ohmygosh, I guess we’ll have to go!” (Somebody has to do it.)
“She’s taken to golf like a duck takes to water,” Macy’s father reported to Blowing Rock News during a family interview on Monday. “It has been so much fun for us to watch her grow and develop her game.”
Asked how long she has played golf, Macy answered quickly, “Well, I started when I was about eight and a half-ish.”
If a mere mortal (adult) duffer was to say she has been playing golf since the age of eight and a half, you’d probably think she was a grand master at the game. Think Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie, Lydia Ko, or Lexi Thompson. But when you put it into the perspective of a young Macy, age 10, you realize that it was only 18 months ago that she started. It takes some golfers 18 months to get out of a sand trap!
“I can’t explain it,” says Chris Pate, “except to say that she has natural talent.”
Although it may not seem normal for a 10-year-old to consistently drive a golf ball nearly 200 yards — and straight — that thought might well be short-changing the rich mental and physical potential of this and other Generation Z-ers. Macy’s answers to some obvious questions reveal that she may be normal after all.
- What’s your favorite shot, the drive, chip or putt? “The drive,” she says, decisively. “It’s easier for me to get the feel of a drive than for chipping and putting.”
- Why else the drive? “Well, because it goes the farthest — and that’s the first thing that everybody asks, ‘How far can you hit your driver?'”
- Where do three-quarters of the strokes come in a round of golf? Laughing knowingly, “In chipping and putting!”
- What school do you go to? “I’ll be in the 5th grade at Hardin Park.”
- What are your favorite subjects? “Reading, history and stuff. I also like language arts and science.”
- Are you getting straight A’s? “Pretty much,” she smiles, almost bashfully.
- What part of history do you like? “American history.”
- Colonial? Industrial Revolution? “No, I like to learn about World War II. And about Adolf Hitler.” (This kid may not be so normal after all)
- Was Hitler a nice man? “NO!”
- What are your interests besides golf? Ballet? Chuckling, “No, I really like Cross Country and Track & Field.”
- What events in Track? “The 800 and the 400.” (Brutal, the reporter thinks. This kid definitely has something wrong with her!)
- How fast are you running a mile now? “My best so far is 7:21.”
- Why do you like the 800 over the mile? “I like the way you have to pace yourself for the first lap of the 800, but then you can just let it go for the second lap.”
Good Things Come In Threes
The Drive Chip & Putt competition rewards consistency in shot-making, in all three segments. Each competitor gets three drives, three chips and three putts. For drives, the golfer gets points for distance — except that if it goes out of bounds, you get zero points for that hit. This is NOT a best of three shots: each one accumulates to the final score. Same thing for chips and putts, except they are judged on how close they get it to the cup, earning different levels of points by placing the ball into circles around the cup at varying distances. Get it in the cup and you max out for that particular hit.
Was Adolf Hitler a good man? “NO!”
“For the putts,” Macy explained, “one putt is 6-feet, one is 15-feet, and one is 30 feet. For the drives, it is only a 40-yard wide fairway.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Pate tied for 4th in the Drive segment at Stoney Creek, but got 2nd in both the Chip and the Putt segments to capture first place Overall title.
“When we started down this road, when we entered into this competition,” noted Coach Pate, “we had no idea it would go as far as it has gone, but it has been fun being along for the ride.
“I used to play golf a lot,” he said, “but I don’t play much anymore. I have more fun just going out to watch her and to help her where I can.”
“He’s the caddy,” Martha Pate interjected with a big smile.
Macy says she started playing golf by just “messing around” with her father, Chris, at the local 9-hole course west of Boone, Willow Creek. “After about a year,” she recalled, “I started getting more interested and taking the game more seriously.”
For her age group, most of the tournament competitions are nine holes. “Yesterday I shot 42 at Longleaf, in Pinehurst.”
Mmmmm. 42 on nine implies that for 18 holes she would have shot around 84. And she’s only 10?
Tom Adams at Boone Golf Club has been terrific in helping me.
“I really like the competition,” Macy shared with Blowing Rock News. “I like the feeling when you make a birdie or even a couple of pars in a row.” (Join the “don’t do that very often club” of hackers.)
You like competition…why not boxing?
“Well, I like having to focus on the whole nine holes,” she replied, wise beyond her years. “In other sports, your focus is a little shorter. I like the mental challenge of having to stay focused for the whole round, whether that is nine holes now or 18 as I get older.”
The Regional competition at Pinehurst on September 4th will afford Macy an opportunity to earn a spot at Nationals next year during Masters week at Augusta National. Martha Pate explained that there will only be 10 competitors at this Regional tournament, but it will include golfers from sub-regional competitions from further away, including Braselton, Georgia; Augusta, Georgia; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; and College Grove, Tennessee, in addition to the two qualifiers from the Whitsett, NC sub-regional.
Chris Pate explained that the whole thing started out at a local competition in Charlotte, one of more than 250 local competitions nationwide. There were three qualifiers from each local competition to advance to the sub-regionals, then two qualifiers in each gender age division from the sub-regionals to the regional competitions, most of which will be help in September. Besides Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, other regional competition sites include TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Verdra Beach, Florida; Olympic Club, San Francisco, California; Riviera Country Club, Los Angeles, California; Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma; The Country Club, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts; Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey; Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois; Hazeltine Country Club, Chaska, Minnesota; and Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania.
My favorite local role model is Savanna Wood. My favorite professional golfers are Brooke Henderson and Jordan Spieth.
For both girls and boys, the age groups are 7-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15. Each competitor must be of that age next spring, at the time of the Masters. Macy Pate will be 11 at the time of the National competition, so she is competing in 10-11 age group, aiming for Augusta.
Practice Makes Perfect
Martha Pate, patient and proud mother and #1 Macy Pate fan, seems extraordinarily happy that her daughter found “a calling” at such a young age. “She loves golf now. It hasn’t taken over her life, but she practices something about her game every day.”
As for role models, Macy says that locally she really enjoys playing with Savanna Wood, a Watauga High School product now competing for Appalachian State. Her favorite professional players are Brooke Henderson among the women and Jordan Spieth among the men.
What are your favorite golf courses that you have played so far? “Well, Boone Golf Club is my home course and Tom Adams has been terrific in encouraging me to play and helping me here and there, especially with my chipping. I also like to play Mountain Glen, over in Avery County, north of Newland.”
“It is amazing how the golfing community really helps kids and takes the time to inspire them, to help nurture their game,” observed Chris Pate. “One day I was working in Blowing Rock and she called me up to say she was going that day to play at Elk River with Savanna Wood! Man, I’ve never gotten to play Elk River!”
The senior Pate was formerly the golf course superintendent at Boone GC for 10 years. “I resigned in 2001,” he said, “but I have a lot of great memories out here. One of the last things I was involved with was putting the lake (at No. 6) in and the irrigation system. The lake was really put in not for the design of the hole, but as a functional thing for the whole golf course. For irrigation, we were pulling water directly out of the Middle Fork of the New River that runs along side the course. With all of the flooding and stuff, there was a lot of sediment and debris getting in and fouling our intakes. With the lake we are always pumping clean water through the system. In the process, a lot of people say it helped the design of Hole No. 6.” (Easy for you to say. There are folks with life savings in golf balls at the bottom of that lake!)
Turning to Macy, we asked, “Is the par-5 No. 6 YOUR favorite hole?”
“No,” she beamed. “My favorites here at Boone are No. 2, a par-4, and No. 16, which is a par-3.”
(Well, OK, but the problem with No. 2 is that it is relatively straight — which is bad for a reporter that hits the ball crooked!)
Talking with Macy Pate, 10-year-old emerging golfer extraordinaire, is a breath of fresh air compared to other 10-year-olds with their faces seemingly always buried in a phone, texting.
Confident. Talented. Thoughtful. Articulate. She knows what she is about. Heck, let’s start a write-in campaign: “Macy for President”. The election wouldn’t be any more bizarre than it already is and the country might just be in better hands if she were to win.