Bubba Watson, Jerry Pate flash some brilliance at mini golf

Bubba Watson watches Jerry Pate line up a putt Sunday at a mini-golf event in Florida. (Bill Vilona/USA Today Network) Bill Vilona/USA Today Network

Bubba Watson, Jerry Pate flash some brilliance at mini golf

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Bubba Watson, Jerry Pate flash some brilliance at mini golf

PENSACOLA, Fla. – Before heading to this week’s PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas this week, Bubba Waston joined golfing legend Jerry Pate in a charity mini-golf tournament in their hometown.

Pensacola’s two biggest connections in the professional golf world were part of Sunday night’s inaugural miniature golf tournament, fund-raising event at the First Tee of Northwest Florida’s Goofy Golf mini-golf center.

The crisp chill was only part of the cool experience.

“I played the game of golf and somebody’s helped me to get me out here, to learn the game. It was not just my parents, but the sponsors who have given,” said Watson, who went from the Milton (Fla.) High golf team to becoming a two-time Masters champion.

The two men from different eras provided a rare moment and a snapshot of Pensacola’s amazing link to world golf fame.  Between them Pate and Watson have won 17 PGA Tour events.

Pate, 64, is one of only 11 men in golf history (Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods among the others) to have won the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open, which he did two years apart in the mid-1970’s. Watson, 38, is one of only 17 golfers in history who have multiple green jackets as Masters champion.

Both grew up in the Pensacola area and played high school golf here. Now, they were playing at Goofy Golf in a tournament against Pensacola residents who completed throughout the day Sunday to get into a grand finale shootout with the famed duo.

The event attracted 63 teams of two players. The division winners got to play in a nine-hole elimination shootout Sunday night against Pate and Watson with each hole eliminating the highest-scoring team.

“We can’t win this, Bubba,” said Pate, after he intentionally slid a second putt past the hole in the last group. Watson then followed with an off-line stroke,

“They were great very gracious, a terrific event all the way around,” said Dave Hammon, who teamed with Ben Myers, a fellow employee at Pete Moore Chevrolet, to become the winners in a nine-hole elimination shootout.

Watson that he kept a private jet waiting Sunday night at the airport for an all-night flight to Las Vegas.

“In the sport of golf, it’s not just about trying to become a professional golfer,” Watson said. “It is also about growing (in life) through golf. You look at doctors, lawyers, the President of the United States, they all love the game of golf.

“The charity dollars raised is pretty special. Golf is a part of a lot of people’s lives and not professional golfers. These kids are going to learn a great deal through golf.

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