In five pro tournaments he had not missed a cut and he had earned a theoretical $13,000. "I thought to myself, if I can do this as an amateur, I can sure do it as a pro."
After the Open, Pate decided to forgo a degree in marketing from Alabama, which would have required at least another semester, and to turn pro, even though he would not be able to join the tour until after going to the qualifying school in November, He borrowed $4,000 from his father's boss, Crawford Rainwater, and set off for the British Open at Carnoustie, where he failed to qualify. "I was 3,000 miles from home, it had cost me a lot of money to get there, and I did worry that I might have made a mistake turning pro." Confidence returned, however, when decent finishes in the Swiss and Scandinavian Opens allowed him to return Rainwater's money 52 days after he had borrowed it. He has been on his own ever since.
After he had won the qualifying-school tournament in early November, Jerry and Soozi were married, and in January the couple was out on the tour. Through the first half of April, Pate had earned $16,000, but when he missed the cut at New Orleans and missed it again the next week at Houston, his vaunted confidence began to crumble. He had made the mistake a lot of faltering rookies do. He had begun listening to advice about his swing. In Houston he phoned Rehling and the two talked for an hour and a half. "He told me to keep playing my own game and to wait," says Pat.
From then on Pate's progress was steady—34th at Dallas, 14th at Colonial, 12th at Memphis, fourth at Muirfield, third at Philadelphia. He arrived in Atlanta for the Open with his old overconfidence back in good shape. Vinny Giles was in the gallery on the third day as his client crossed from the 8th green to the 9th tee. Pate had begun the round tied for third with Ben Crenshaw and Rod Funseth at even par, but he had dropped four strokes in the first four holes. By the 9th he had gotten three of them back. As he saw Giles, Pate called out, "Hello, Vinny, did you see me play the first four holes?" Giles replied that he had and that he did not very much like what he had seen. "It was bad luck," said Pate. "I didn't hit a single bad shot."
"That's what I like about Jerry," says Giles. "There is no way he could have thought he played those first holes worth a damn, but he never lost faith in himself. He played the next eight holes in five under, parred in from there, and instead of a 78 or 80 he wound up with a 69. That's what won him the golf tournament."
At midnight on Open Sunday, 15 pounds lighter than he had started the year, the young Open champion boarded a chartered plane bound for a pro-am in Amana, Iowa, where the next day policemen would link arms and form a human chain to see him safely from green to tee.