Hunter Pate doesn’t need to play high-school golf, per se.
After all, she plays a year-round national schedule, holds scholarship offers from some of the top Division-I programs in the country and has played some of the most prestigious courses in the country.
But high school golf provides her with something high-profile tournament tee-boxes, fairways and greens can’t on their own.
“It’s (her) chance to have teammates,” her father, Jack said, “because golf is such an individual sport.”
Pate is back for her senior season at Bishop Gorman, and she’s hoping to lead the Gaels to their first state championship since 2006 while becoming the school’s first individual state champion since In-Ah Park that same year.
Pate finished fourth in the individual Class 4A tournament last season, and guided Gorman to a second-place finish, four strokes behind Coronado.
Gaels coach Jim Standfill said his star senior is a model of consistency that brings the best out in other players. Pate, meanwhile, is still in awe of how fast her high school career went by.
“I still feel like a freshman,” Pate said with a smile. “I would love to see our team progress and win state. That’s the goal.”
Pate took up golf at age 8 and started playing competitively almost immediately after learning the game.
Her father said she had an uncanny competitive drive — even at a young age — and it helped her to victory in the 14-15-year-old age division at the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at hallowed Augusta National in 2014.
“The conditions just stood out above everything else,” Pate said of her most precious golf memory. “There was never a moment where I kind of got comfortable. It was ‘Oh my goodness, I’m at Augusta.’”
She was presented with the key to the city upon her return to Las Vegas, and she soon met Standfill, who was blown away by the then 14-year-old’s demeanor and maturity.
“Great composure … so friendly, and she’s really just been that way for four straight years,” Standfill said. “She’s been the leader on the team. She’s been the one younger players look to for guidance … She’s just been a great kid.”
Pate practices diligently throughout the year, and her dad estimated that she spends about 80 percent of her time working on her putting and chipping, which she says is the strongest part of her game.
She travels every month to play in national tournaments, many of which are sanctioned by the USGA — golf’s governing body — and has been invited to various LPGA qualifying tournaments.
Pate said she’s considering attending Long Beach State University and the University of Oregon next fall, and her father included Ohio State in her list of possible colleges.
But first, she’s focusing on her senior year at Bishop Gorman.
“That’s something unique that you don’t get to experience out of high school, being on a team,” Pate said. “That atmosphere is very cool to experience.”
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.