By Marino Parascenzo, Special to PGA.com
LIGONIER, Pa. -- Quiet, meek Mike Reid won the Senior PGA Championship on his first try Sunday. It was a very old story. Aesop wrote it maybe 2,500 years ago.
Everyone knows how the tortoise-and-the-hare story came out. Reid had brought it up earlier on Saturday, after his third straight 70 left him two shots out of the lead, except he called himself a turtle. But the idea's the same.
There were two hares -- the somber, workmanlike Jerry Pate, and the lively, effervescent Dana Quigley, and both chopped up the par-5 18th hole, which would prove to be the third-easiest of the tournament.
The self-effacing Reid, who would never dare work up the nerve to say "Gotcha!," eagled that 18th late Sunday afternoon to tie them, and then not more than 20 minutes later beat them with a birdie there on the first playoff hole.
Reid set himself up for the win with a gutsy 3-iron second shot across the water at the sharp dogleg-right finishing hole. He stuck it about 20 feet from the pin. Moments later, Pate had pitched on and was 30 feet from the pin, and needed just a par to win. Pate left his first putt 3 feet short. Then Reid drilled his putt in for an eagle. Pate stepped up to the 3-footer for the win. It looked like a lock.
"I was thinking, I hope Jerry makes it," Reid said. "I'm tired. I don't want to go back out there again."
But Pate blew the 3-footer, his ball never touching the hole as it passed by the right lip, and shot 70. Quigley had already finished with a par 72. They were tied at 8-under 280, four ahead of Morris Hatalsky.
An entire week's drama was packed into those final holes.
Quigley finished off a rain-delayed third round with a 66 in the morning, and bolted into the lead in the fourth. Reid was tagging along. In fact, he was out in 38, and appeared to be out of it. Pate closed in, and it was Pate and Quigley down the stretch. Until, that is, Reid allowed himself the thought that maybe a 32 would get him into it. And it did.
The key to the day was Pate's decision to lay up at the 18th in regulation.
"I'm not a lay-up golfer," he said. "I don't know why I laid up. Even after I hit the third shot on the green, I'm thinking, 'God, why did I lay up?'"
The answer: His caddie called the shot. Said Pate: "He said, 'I want you to lay up. All you have to do is make 5 and you win.'"
Pate took his caddie's advice, and laid up to the neck left of the green, then flew a wedge to the back and watched it trickle down to about 30 feet. Then he left that 3 feet short, and then he blew the 3-footer. It cost him his first win on the Champions Tour, returning after 10 years with a shoulder problem, and his first of any kind since the 1982 Players Championship.
Most shocking about Pate's decision was that from 195 yards, it was a perfect 5-iron for him. And everyone knows he's famous for hitting famous 5-irons, like the one he hit on the 18th hole to win the 1976 U.S. Open as a PGA Tour rookie and the one he hit on the 18th hole to ice his win at the 1982 Tournament Players Championship.
Another one on the 18th hole here would have only added to his legend with the 5-iron.
"I just got to get a little bit more confidence in my putter," Pate said.
Quigley was nothing if not confident. Trailing by a shot in regulation, he went for the 18th from 210 yards over the water with his Rescue Club, effectively a 3-iron, and overhit it into that pot bunker. Faced with an awkward stance, his left foot out of the bunker, all be could manage was to slash ball out into the long rough, then ship to a foot for par.
Reid then set the stage with his eagle.
The 18th would hurt Quigley again in the playoff at the 18th.
Pate hooked his tee shot into the left rough, laid up short of the water, then put his approach to 6 feet.
Quigley hit the Rescue Club again from a good fairway lie, and this time he didn't want to hit it too hard. It came down just a few feet short, into the water.
Reid, who was to say that Pate was smart in laying up, himself was not. He hit a 5-wood beautifully across the water to about 20 feet. His eagle putt just missed, and he tapped in for the birdie. Then Pate missed his 6-footer.
The Tortoise had beaten the Hares. It was all too much for him to handle.
When he was being congratulated on television, he got all choked up.
And then Reid, a wispy 165-pounder, contemplated the trophy. It stands about 3 feet high and weighs about 30 pounds.
As he was leaving the interview room in the media center, someone reminded him that he'd forgotten his trophy, there on the table. Not exactly.
"Oh," Reid said, frowning, "I can't carry that thing again."