Pate Wins in Stormy Weather : T of C's Final Round Is Called Off Because of Rain, Hail, Forecast

Times Staff Writer

You know how it goes with golf tournaments: You win some, you lose some and some get shortened to 54 holes.

On a rainy, windy Sunday, the MONY Tournament of Champions went through three delays because of rain and another because of hail before the final round was officially called off.

That meant Steve Pate won it, Larry Nelson lost it and Dennis Conner should have navigated it.

The La Costa course this particular Sunday was more suited to play host to the America's Cup trials than the final round of a $500,000 golf tournament.

Mac O'Grady, for one, had a little trouble playing under the conditions, but he said he managed.

"I had to maintain my introverted, inner aura of serenity and serendipity," he said.

Other golfers tried to keep their pants dry. O'Grady, last year's champion, managed to get in the last 18 holes, but he shot an 86 and played while wearing skiing goggles.

While a flock of ducks floated across the 18th fairway during one deluge, an electronic scoreboard nearby blinked the message: "Welcome To Another Fine PGA Tour Event."

Before play was finally called, the four delays amounted to 3 hours 53 minutes.

The rain was bad enough, but there was also one 10-minute delay because of hail.

This prompted an important question. How big do hailstones have to be to stop a golf tournament? Would it be appropriate for them to be the size of golf balls?

"No, but they were big enough to hurt," Pate said.

Tournament Chairman Allard Roen and PGA official Mike Shea made the final decision after checking weather reports that called for the same kind of weather today.

"We wouldn't have gotten the round in anyway," Roen said.

Pate, who led after each of the first three rounds, was awarded the $90,000 first prize for his 14-under-par score of 202, one stroke better than Nelson.

Under PGA rules, the tournament winner is whoever was ahead after 54 holes.

That was Pate. Although he and Nelson had played three holes when the cancellation was announced, he wasn't exactly unhappy about not having to complete the last round.

"I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you I was disappointed it was canceled," he said. "You take it any way you can get them."

Nelson finished second and had to console himself with a $54,000 prize. Nelson had actually caught Pate with a birdie on the third hole, but that's as far as he got before the fourth and final delay finally turned into a cancellation.

"I was disappointed because you like to finish 72 holes if you're one shot back, but the decision they made was probably the right one," he said.

It was a day of firsts. Never before in 36 years has the Tournament of Champions been shortened because of bad weather. And never before had Nelson ever lost a tournament he could have won that was shortened because of bad weather.

Nelson awoke to the sound of raindrops and knew the entire round wouldn't be played.

Pate felt the same way. "It was pretty obvious I wasn't going to finish," he said.

Nelson realized the best--and only--chance he had for the final 18 holes to be played was if they were rescheduled for today. For that to happen, half the field needed to finish Sunday.

As it turned out, the twosome at the midway point of the field had finished only nine holes before play was called for good. Only 12 golfers completed their rounds.

So Nelson didn't get his wish. As O'Grady said: "Golf is not a game of perfection, but a world of discovery."

Dave Barr and Nick Faldo, who tied for third place, won $29,000 apiece.

Nelson had said only one day earlier that he did not mind being behind in a tournament.

"I should have said except after 54 holes," he said. "But I'm happy for Steve. He played 54 holes better than anyone else."

And for that, Pate made no apologies. "A win is a win," Pate said. "I was hoping they would call it today. I don't look at it any differently than if we had played 72 holes. But it wasn't up to me. I just go out and play until they say it's over."

Just before 4 o'clock, they said it was over.

"I guess this means I'm off to a good start," Pate said.

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