Pate becomes oldest winner in Nationwide Tour history

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Cristina de Moreno presents Steve Pate with the winner's trophy at the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open.
March 07, 2010
Joe Chemycz, PGA TOUR Staff

BOGOTA, Colombia -- It wasn't the script he would have written, but the result was just as sweet for 48-year-old Steve Pate, who defeated Aaron Watkins in a playoff to capture the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open and become the oldest tournament winner in Nationwide Tour history.

Pate made par on the second playoff hole and earned the victory when Watkins, who had lagged his 96-foot birdie putt to within 3 feet, missed the comeback attempt for par. The win is Pate's first since the 1998 CVS Charity Classic, the last of his six PGA TOUR wins.

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"It sure is nice to win anything. I haven't done that in a long time," said Pate of his victory drought that spanned 245 starts (173 PGA TOUR, 72 Nationwide Tour) and lasted 11 years, 7 months and 11 days. "Three-footers out here are not tap-ins. I feel bad for Aaron but everybody's missed a bunch of them this week."

Pate and Watkins finished regulation play at the Bogota Country Club deadlocked at 11-under 273. Watkins posted a 3-under 68 on the final day while Pate, the third-round leader, shot an uneven round of even 71 to force the second playoff of the season.

Rookie Jamie Lovemark matched the course record with a 6-under 65 and wound up at 9-under 275 to share third place with William McGirt (70) and second-round leader Tag Ridings (71). Andrew Buckle (66), Kent Jones (68) and John Riegger (68) tied for sixth place

Pate began the day with a two-stroke advantage over Ridings but quickly relinquished the lead with consecutive bogeys on the first two holes, his first since Thursday's opening round. A birdie on No. 3 was followed by back-to-back bogeys again Nos. 5 and 6, dropping Pate to 8 under and opening the door for a host of challengers.

"I wasn't hitting it terrible at the start," he said. "I was just a little off and out here you can't afford that on this golf course. Even though I started poorly I didn't panic. I knew I still had a lot of good shots in me and there were plenty of holes left to go."

Pate settled down and started making pars by hitting fairways and aiming for the center of the green, a strategy that worked well for the first 54 holes. A driver, 4-iron combination on the 585-yard, par-5 13th hole left him with a 35-footer for eagle, which he canned to get back to within one of Watkins, who was one group in front of him and had birdied the same hole to get to minus-11.

Watkins missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th and then waited to see if Pate, who had birdied No. 17 to tie, could birdie the final hole for the win.

Pate got a read on his 25-foot from playing partner Ridings, but his putt just slid over the edge of the cup.

"I thought I made that one, I really did," said Pate of his birdie try.

The two went back to the 585-yard, 18th hole for the playoff. The hole is a slight dogleg right with water in front of the green, forcing the shorter hitters like Watkins and Pate to lay up with their second shots.

Pate missed a 10-foot birdie on the first extra hole and Watkins two-putted from 40 feet to send the pair back to the tee.

Watkins came up well short on his third shot, the ball stopping on the front fringe, nearly 100 feet from the pin. Pate knocked his third 10 feet past the cup but his birdie attempt never had a chance.

"I hit a good putt on the first hole but misread that one," Pate said. "The second one, well I just hit it fat."

Pate and an overflow crowd were ready for a third extra hole when Watkins missed his par attempt.

"I'm not sure what happened on that one," said Watkins. "I don't know if I pushed it or what. I've had a great week here and happy with my finish."

So is Pate, who is now fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour for the rest of this year and all of next year when he turns 50 in May and sets his sights on the Champions Tour.

"I really don't have the desire to continue to grind it out on the PGA TOUR, I just don't," Pate said. "I'd love to play a handful of events, and I'll do that if I get in, but I don't want to do that week-in and week-out. I'd love to play some three-day tournaments with a bunch of guys I've known forever and work with my golf course design company and be done."

Fourth-round notes:

* At 48 years, 9 months and 11 days, Pate becomes the oldest winner in Nationwide Tour history. The oldest previous winner was Dick Mast, who won the 1999 New Mexico Classic at the age of 48 years, 6 months and 17 days.

* Local favorite Manuel Villegas, the younger brother of PGA TOUR winner Camilo Villegas, shot a 4-under 67 to move up the leaderboard. Villegas started the day tied for 36th and finished tied for 15th.

* While the Nationwide Tour takes this week off, several players will be playing in PGA TOUR events. Ken Duke, Carlos Franco, Daniel Barbetti, Peter Gustafsson, Jhonattan Vegas and Manuel Villegas will be part of the 132-man field at the Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular. Alistair Presnell will tee it up as part of the 64-man field at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship in Miami. Presnell gained a spot for being in the top-two on last year's Australasian Tour Order of Merit.

* The Nationwide Tour will take the next two weeks off before beginning the domestic portion of the 2010 schedule at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in Broussard, La., March 22-28.

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