Jay Allred has been head girls golf coach at Reagan High School in Pfafftown, North Carolina, since the team got started 15 years ago. He volunteered to be an assistant, but when nobody else raised a hand, got promoted to head coach. For the first 18 months on the job, Allred said he picked up Homer Kelley’s “The Golfing Machine” and carried it around like a Baptist minister.
These days Allred, publisher of Triad Golf Today and Triangle Golf Today, mostly carries around packages of Oreos. Have a bad hole? Here’s a cookie. He’s big on fun and doesn’t ask about scores mid-round.
In fact, Allred said he didn’t even know his No. 3 player, Macy Pate, had shot an outrageously low 14-under 57 until her score went up on the scoreboard. Assistant coach Mary Kate Bowman Choat, who played at Appalachian State, kept Pate fueled with brownies.
Macy Pate holds up her 57 card (courtesy photos)
“Gosh, it’s been a lot of fun,” said the engaging Pate nearly one week after that life-changing round. It took a while for the enormity of that 57 to sink in. Pate took the PSAT the next day and came out of testing to an avalanche of messages. She has picked up almost 1,000 followers on Instagram.
Her principal at Reagan offered congrats, as did several teachers and players on the boys’ team. Over the weekend at the AJGA’s Vaughn Taylor Championship, volunteers asked for her autograph.
Pate won that tournament too, by six shots, with rounds of 69-67-73.
“It’s beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined,” said the 16-year-old sophomore, who broke 70 for the first time in a tournament just this year.
Pate isn’t even the best player on Reagan’s team. That honor belongs to senior Morgan Ketchum, a senior who heads to Virginia Tech next fall. Ketchum has been averaging 31 all season. She hits the ball 285 yards off the tee and practiced 90 hours over spring break earlier this year, rising at 5 a.m. to work out. Over the summer, the studious Ketchum learned Morse code.
“I was shocked (Morgan) didn’t get more attention,” said Allred of Ketchum’s college recruitment.
Anna Howerton, a junior who committed to High Point University, rounds out the nucleus of Reagan’s team.
Reagan has the rare opportunity to win two state titles in the span of one calendar year after last year’s event was postponed due to the pandemic. Pate won the individual title in May and led the team to its second state crown and a No. 1 ranking in the country.
They’ll try for a third state title next week on Pinehurst No. 5.
Reagan, winners of 13 consecutive conference championships, regularly rewrites the state record book. Earlier this season, they shot 92 as a team in a nine-hole event, setting a new record with rounds of 28 (Ketchum), 31 (Howerton) and 33 (Pate/Hillary Gong).
Front: Assistant coach Mary Kate Bowman Choat Back row left to right: Morgan Ketchum, Macy Pate, Caroline Shriver, Jay Allred, Anna Howerton, Ella Reed, Ruth Anne Asbill.
The day Pate shot 57 at the Central Piedmont 4A Conference Championship at Bermuda Run West, she hit 15 shots on the range to warm up, mostly talking to her teammates about music and joking with coaches. So much of junior golf is a pressure-cooker. Allred makes sure that enjoyment remains a priority at Reagan.
A relaxed Pate started her round at Bermuda Run West on the seventh hole. She birdied two of the first three and said to her dad, “Well, that was a good start,” on the shuttle ride to the back nine.
Pate would go on to make 10 consecutive birdies from Nos. 14-5. Twice her ball settled into a footprint in a bunker and she got up and down both times. She made most of her birdies from the 8- to 9-foot range.
Her best shot of the day came on the drivable par-4 14th, where it was 260 to the flag and a long carry over water.
Pate looked over at her dad as the ball was in the air and said, “That might be in the hole.”
The ball ended up 20 yards long, but she got up and down for birdie to kickstart that magnificent run.
The par-71 course played to about 4,800 yards. Pate shot 27 on the front and 30 on the back and wore out her wedges. She noted that on Monday, her dad had her wedges bent back to her specs. Her gap wedge in particular had gotten too upright. She practiced with them once before the 57.
Ketchum shot 64 that day and lost by seven shots.
Pate broke the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s scoring record of 11-under 61 set by Duke’s Gina Kim in 2016 and matched by current LPGA player Jennifer Chang’s 10-under 61 in 2017.
Introduced to the game by her father, Chris, Pate was taught early on by now-retired Wayne Smith at Blowing Rock Country Club near Boone, North Carolina.
“He’s such a good guy,” said Pate. “He’d give me a lesson anytime I needed one.”
It was Smith who introduced Pate to former Wake Forest coach Dianne Dailey, who encouraged Pate to get off the mountain if she wanted to take her game to another level. Dailey knew that the facilities, weather and limited competition in Boone would hold her back.
Last year, Chris and Martha Pate found new jobs in Winston-Salem and moved their daughter to Reagan, where her confidence quickly blossomed. Pate now works with Brad Luebchow, a teaching pro at Maple Chase Golf and Country Club, where six of the nine players on Reagan’s team are members.
Over the summer, Pate won the North Carolina Junior Girls’ Championship followed by a 12-shot victory at the Twin States Junior Girls and a seven-shot triumph at the Carolinas Junior Girls that included a final-round 66.
After knocking on the door at several AJGA events, she collected her first title on that tour a mere five days after that magical 57.
Left to right: Morgan Ketchum, Macy Pate and Anna Howerton.
On Tuesday, Pate and her teammates will play in regionals before trying to defend their title at Pinehurst.
Her biggest goal for 2022: qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open at nearby Pine Needles.
“I think she is going to have her door knocked down,” said Dailey of future college options.
No part of this attention seems to have gone to Pate’s head. The ball she used to shoot 57 is sitting inside a trophy in the family living room. The scorecard is on the kitchen table.
Did she ever get nervous?
Not really. Excited more than anything over a two-foot putt that meant she could par in and shoot 59.
And then she thought, “Might as well try to go even lower.”
So she did.