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This Father Knew Best

There has been a lot of talk about fathers and fatherhood in golf this year. It began at the U.S. Open when Phil Mickelson jumped aboard Air Lefty and flew from Philadelphia to San Diego to witness his daughter’s eighth grade graduation. He returned overnight, landing in Philly at 4:30 a.m., grabbing a quick power nap, and making his 7:11 a.m. tee time. It looked like he had PGA Tour father of the year honors locked up. Until, that is, Hunter Mahan withdrew from the Canadian Open while leading after two rounds because his wife went into labor with their first child. The mainstream media had a field day with this, for reasons that remain a bit unclear to me. All fathers would have done the same, wouldn’t they? Nonetheless, Mahan bumped Phil aside and took the lead in the mythical FOY award chase in the pro game. Tiger Woods tried to get in on the action, having one of his aides trot out his 4-year-old son after Tiger won the Bridgestone Invitational. It seemed a bit staged, however. Outside his Nike television spots, Tiger is a lousy actor. The amateur game has its own heartwarming father of the year story. Consider the case of Pat Carter, arguably the best mid-amateur in America few have ever heard of. At least outside of West Virginia, where everybody in golf knows exactly who Pat Carter is. Carter, an insurance executive from Huntington, W.Va., has won the West Virginia Amateur a staggering 13 times, including 10 in a row from 1995 to 2004. He won again last year at the Greenbrier Resort, his first win since 2006, and you would have thought he’d have been on hand two weeks ago to defend his title. Instead, he was in Atlanta, watching his son Hogan and his Barboursville, W.Va., Little League team strive to advance to the Little League World Series, to be played this month in Williamsport, Pa. Not only that, Carter passed on trying to play at the U.S. Amateur at the famed Country Club last week in what would have been his 33rd USGA championship. He didn’t enter his Amateur qualifier for the same reason: He was too busy being a father. What makes Carter’s West Virginia Amateur decision particularly interesting is that he is nearing the record of one of America’s all-time great amateurs. West Virginia gave the game Bill Campbell, a giant in the amateur game who thoroughly dominated state competition in his day, winning the West Virginia Amateur a record 15 times. I use the word “decision,” but for Carter there never really was one. If Hogan advanced, dad was going to be there, regardless of what the golf calendar said. There will be future U.S. Amateurs, future state amateurs. But childhood is over in the blink of an eye, as most parents realize. Carter has won the title in four separate decades and he sees no reason why he cannot keep winning, although he says the Campbell record has never been a goal. “Mr. Campbell is such an icon,” Carter told me. “It’s nice to be mentioned alongside him, but it was such a different era. I just try to play my golf, to play my personal best, and not think about anything else.” Carter, like Campbell a member of the West Virginia Golf Hall of Fame, has upward of 30 state titles, including six mid-amateur titles. He stayed home to play college golf at Marshall University after winning three straight West Virginia high school championships. He was captain of the Thundering Herd golf team his junior and senior year and was All-Southern Conference in 1990 and is now a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame. Carter has built his game by being very good at a lot of different things and not great at any one aspect. He has never claimed to be a long hitter, but does think he is an above average putter. At age 45, he laughs when asked about his workout regimen, but he insists that he remains flexible enough to compete at a high level. Hogan, 13, is named for who you think he is named because the great man was Pat Carter’s brother’s favorite golfer, and it was his brother who introduced him to the game of golf at age two. Hogan, one of two children, is a pitcher on the team.


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