Hunter Pate got over the disappointment easily.
“It was just freshman year,” she said. “I still had three more years left.”
Bishop Gorman girls golf coach Jim Stanfill, on the other hand, had a harder time coming to grips with what had happened.
“I was more saddened for her,” Stanfill said. “I felt bad that she potentially lost the opportunity to be a four-year state champion individually.”
Pate, one of the nation’s top junior golfers, was ineligible to compete for the Gaels last season because of a little-known Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association rule. Now a sophomore, Pate will play in her first high school major when the Division I Sunset Region tournament tees off at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Red Rock Country Club.
The Sunrise Region tournament begins at noon at the same course, while the Division I-A Southern Region tournament starts at 11 a.m. Thursday at Mountain Falls Golf Club in Pahrump.
The top two teams and the top five individuals from nonqualifying teams advance to the Division I state tournament Oct. 21 and 22 at Primm Valley Golf Club’s Lakes Course.
“I’m really excited for region and state,” Pate said. “We have a good team, and everybody can do well.”
Pate, who started playing golf at age 8, hails from an athletic family. Her father, Jack, is a former tennis pro, and her uncle David won the 1991 Australian Open doubles title.
Pate qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship as a 12-year-old and became the youngest winner of the Nevada state women’s amateur the following year at age 13. She won the state amateur again in 2014, though Pate’s bid for a three-peat was halted Wednesday at Boulder Creek Golf Club as she finished three shots back of winner Laurie Johnson.
In April 2014, Pate finished first in the girls 14-15 division of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, which was the first competition open to women at Augusta National Golf Club, site of The Masters.
“It was overwhelming to be there,” Pate said. “It built a lot of confidence to be able to go out into that situation and be able to perform under the nerves that were going on.”
Pate’s junior results made her one of the favorites for the Division I state title when she arrived at Gorman, and she shot 72 and 74 in her first two matches before it was discovered she was ineligible.
NIAA rules prohibit freshmen at a private school from playing varsity sports for 180 school days if they finished eighth grade at a public school.
“I definitely wanted to be out there playing,” said Pate, who attended Grant Sawyer Middle School. “But at the same time, all I was thinking was wanting my teammates to do well.”
The Gaels went on to finish fifth at state, while Spanish Springs senior Katrina Prendergast captured her second consecutive individual title. Gorman’s Julie Dunn (1992 to 1995) and Katelyn Wright of Incline (2006 to 2009) are the only four-time champions in state history.
“Sometimes you see some of these prodigies, and they don’t know how to interact,” Stanfill said. “She’s a good teammate, and a good role model to her teammates. She still came to all the practices and supported the girls at the matches.”
Pate won or shared medalist honors in the four Southwest League matches she played this season. She fired a 4-under-par 68 on Sept. 2 at Aliante and carded a 68 at Badlands on Sept. 9.
With Pate leading the way, Gorman is expected to win its third straight region title. Other contenders for the individual title include Palo Verde sophomore Annick Haczkiewicz and Desert Oasis’ Ashley Malone, the runner-up at the Sunset tournament as a junior.
“I think Hunter thrives when she’s in that first group, with all the No. 1s,” Stanfill said. “There’s that drive in her. She wants to be that champion.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.