Germantown - When Bruce Pate steps onto the open green littered with sand traps, his toughest competitor is himself.
He has practiced the same swing over and over again. He has worked the putter. The driver is one with his arms. But, the second he lets the pressure of competition into his mind, a new challenge arises.
That challenge is against himself. To play the game he knows he can play, he has to block out the inherent pressure from competition and believe he can hit the ball he has hit since he was a 3-year-old boy growing up in Scotland.
Pate, a 44-year-old engineer from Germantown, will meet this challenge head on as he and four other Americans head to Durban, South Africa, to compete against 40 countries during the 18th annual World Golfer's Championship Oct. 27 through Nov. 3.
Transitioning into competition
It was a mere year ago when Pate decided to golf competitively. The decision to compete has already paid off as the elite group of golfers competed in a slew of qualifying rounds and a national competition in order to represent the United States for the international championship.
"I think it's phenomenal," Pate said. "This is a very unusual experience for anyone to get a chance to represent the country, but to do so abroad in an environment where it will be huge international participation."
The five members of the championship team compete in five different flights. Pate, who has a handicap of 11.3, is in flight two. The golfers' scores will be tallied for each flight against the international competitors to see which country goes home with the World Golfer's Championship trophy.
Preparing to win
In preparation for the tour, Pate has been practicing a few times a week. However, once he steps onto the competitive course, the other golfers no longer matter and he will battle to keep his mind and body calm and his swing sharp, as well as accurate.
"When it's a competition, you have to use all the practice you've done for hours at the driving range or at the courses, you have to calm down and play the game instead of thinking about the shot," Pate said. "You have to believe your natural body athleticism will play correctly, you just have to believe it. It's a very important part of the game."
The five U.S. golfers who are from different locations across the nation will meet for the first time on their flight to South Africa. They will have two practice rounds together before heading into the opening ceremonies. Each golfer will carry their country's flag in an Olympic-esque ceremony.
"That's going to be an exciting start and then we'll play all four rounds," Pate said. "At the end, hopefully we'll win the trophy and hopefully get a closing ceremony of success and bring that home."
Learning golf over the years
Though Pate is new to competition, he is not new to the sport of golf. He learned how to play from his father on Dunaverty Golf Club on the west coast of Scotland. In high school, he began to play more seriously; however, it wasn't until last year that he joined the Golf Channel Amateur Tour to play competitively.
Competitive golf is an entirely different level of play, though equally enjoyable, he said.
"I think that in golf especially, competition is not difficult, it's you against the course," Pate said. "Competition, however, always breeds stress and pressure and that's where the challenge comes in. It's in your head."
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