Local Golf: Annual father-son tourney hits home for Pate family
PRESCOTT - Buddy Pate has competed in the Father-Son Golf Tournament for four decades, dating back to 1971, partly because he couldn't think of a better way to get his family together.
An hour before he teed off at the heavily attended 52nd annual event Saturday morning at Antelope Hills Golf Course, the 74-year-old Pate took practice swings on the driving range, flanked by his sons Ted, Tom and Tim, and his grandson, John.
As they have so many times in prior years, the men played together against other father-son combinations in the popular tourney, which concludes today.
"My wife (Verna) and I made a family reunion out of this, and we come down every year," said Buddy, who with his sons through the years became one of the tournament's finest groups of competitors.
In fact, over the weekend of the Father-Son, Buddy and Verna rent a large home outside Prescott where they have a get-together with their boys and enjoy one another's company.
However, it's clear that while Buddy and his family have plenty of fun during their visit, the men take their golfing seriously. On the course, they wear the same colored shirts and have their routine set in stone.
"We plan the year around this, so if you get a job or if you have other plans, you have to make sure they don't conflict with this," Ted said.
Buddy, originally from Oklahoma, moved his family to Winslow in 1960, where he would spend the next 39 years working as an engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad.
Interestingly enough, Buddy did not pick up a golf club until his mid-20s during his down time in Winslow. He was a bowler for a short while, but that sport turned him off.
"One night I went out and bowled so badly that I said, 'I'm going to take up something else. I'm going to start playing golf or something,' " Buddy said.
At that point, in 1964, a man he had met offered to teach him how to play golf, and his love for the game blossomed from there.
Buddy first found out about the Father-Son Tournament when he read about it in The Arizona Republic four decades ago.
"I guess we were the first group out of Winslow that came down here (for the tourney)," Buddy said.
In 1971, Buddy initially brought his eldest son, Ted, now 53, to the course in Prescott. Tom, 51, and Tim, 46, followed shortly thereafter. Ted first participated in the Father-Son as a high school freshman.
"I just let them pick it (golf) up on their own," said Buddy, who did not pressure his sons into playing. "The boys are so close that they like to compete against one another."
Buddy and Ted went on to become a successful pair, winning the Father-Son's overall championship three times, including twice in the 1980s. Ted said he and his father have been in the tournament 38 times since 1971 - missing it only twice because of injuries or a death in the family.
In the mid-1990s, Buddy recalls he and his sons capturing first place in three separate flights. It marked the first occasion in the tournament's history that a father had won a championship with all three of his sons.
"That was quite a deal for all of us," Buddy said.
Years later, Ted's two sons, John and Brian, joined the group when they were old enough. In 2004, Ted and John won the tournament in a sudden death playoff, the year after John graduated from high school. Last year, Brian - who works as an assistant golf pro in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., and couldn't make it to Prescott this year - posted the tournament's lowest score in the pro flight.
In recent years, the family has become spread out a little bit geographically. For example, last week, Tim flew in from Arkansas, where he lives with his family.
Ted, who has taught and coached golf at Winslow High School for several years, will spend one more year teaching before he retires in 2012. John, a Winslow High graduate who played golf for his dad, currently lives and works in Tucson, where he earned two degrees at the University of Arizona.
"This tournament gives us a chance to spend time together," Ted said. "It's been fun."
John, 26, came to the tournament for the first time in 1997. Now, John has a 3-month-old son, Eli, and he said he plans to continue the family's tradition at the Father-Son. John has already bought Eli some golf clothes and equipment.
"I've never not had golf (in my life)," said John, who has pictures of himself holding a club as a 1-year-old. "It's taught me patience, self-control and confidence. But it's really about being with family."
Retired for the past 13 years, Buddy and Verna, a former schoolteacher, have traveled across the U.S. and Canada so he can play on myriad courses. Buddy's still in decent health and he doesn't plan on hanging up the clubs any time soon.
"I've met some of the most wonderful people in the world on the golf course," Buddy said.