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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ahead of the Crowd

Ahead of the Crowd

Hunter Pate drives for success

Story by Nikki Villoria

With a family history of top-notch athletes, 13-year-old Hunter Pate is following her family’s lead and is on a mission to continue to excel. After she played in her first tournament, an enthusiasm was ignited. Since then, a spark has set fire to a passion.

Led to the golf course at eight years old, Pate was like most young kids, more interested in fishing golf balls out of the water and playing in the sand traps. But after pausing for a moment and switching her attention from playing to the game, she instantly fell in love with the sport. 

Hunter’s skills with a club quickly progressed, and by age nine she was entered into her first tournament. There, an official’s ruling cost her the tournament and sent Pate leaving the course with a new desire to go out and dominate.

“My parents were both world class athletes and my brother and I were professional tennis players, so I expected her to do something. What it would have been I wasn’t sure exactly,” says father Jack Pate. “Our goal was to hopefully get her good enough to get a college scholarship and she blew that out of the water the first year. Now it’s a matter of letting her go as far as she wants.”

Since her first tournament, she has competed in about 50 tournaments, winning close to 70 percent of them, and after setting the record for the Youngest Women’s Nevada State Amateur Win in 2013, Hunter is getting ready for a summer of even bigger titles and events.

As a result of her 2013 season and continued progression in the sport, Hunter was invited to the 2014 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at the Augusta National Golf Club, the Women's Trans National Amateur Championship and the North-South Invitational, both of which she will compete at within the next few months.

“I’m really excited to go to the Master’s,” says Hunter. “It’s every golfer’s dream to be number one in the world but right now I just want to work on being the best I can be and then just keep practicing. I just want to play the best I can.”

In addition to her lineup of tournaments, Hunter enjoys charity specific tournaments designed to help support those with Down syndrome, which she chose in support of family friends.

Over the course of her five years of playing, family and friends have put together a support team of instructors and mentors for Hunter. “It’s not just a team, it’s one giant family. We’re all headed in the same direction,” Jack says. 

Among those in her close golf instructor and mentor circle are: Director of Instructions at Sienna Golf Club Kim Dolan, Golf Professional Emeritus at Spanish Trails Country Club Jerry Roberts, former professional golfer Bob May and PGA competitor Parker McLachlin.

“She’s a very good practicer, she works hard on her game and that’s the key. I’ve probably never had anyone this young that plays at her level,” says Dolan, who has worked with Hunter for five years. “To predict where she could be by next year—I can expect her to be one of the better junior players in the country. She’s already such an accomplished player that all she can do is get more consistent.”

The spirit she holds on the golf course carries over to her academics as well. While this 8th grader at Grant Sawyer Middle School is a straight-A student, she’s out to reach a personal goal of being valedictorian in high school and prove that it’s possible to have the grades and be an athlete at the same time.

“The only thing that can hold Hunter back is Hunter. As she gets older and better and stronger, everything comes together even more. I’ve been teaching a long time and it’s only happened a couple of times that someone comes along and you know this person can really play and will go far,” says Roberts, who has worked with Hunter for two years.

“You can see something in Hunter’s golf swing, her attitude and her intelligence. She wants to be the best and that goes without saying, but her reaction when there’s a problem and how she handles it, that’s one of her real strengths,” Roberts continues. “On the golf course that’s very valuable and that’ll also be something that carries her through life as well.”

SIDEBAR

“It has been a treat to work with Hunter these last two years. She has the talent that a lot of people her age will not experience for some time. The drive she has on the golf course, as well as in the classroom, is the making of a champion. In everything I have seen Hunter do, she always strives to be the best, whether it is the golf swing or a certain golf shot. I believe that if Hunter puts her mind to it, she can do anything she wants. Hunter is a very mature young lady that has set her goals high, but I believe she has set obtainable goals because of her great ability.”

Bob May

Bob May Golf Academy, Las Vegas

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