Jerry Pate, trying to recover from an aggravated shoulder injury that has kept him from playing golf since March, did not experience pain yesterday as he hit balls and played a practice round for the Kemper Open at Congressional Country Club.
Among the other early arrivals for the $400,000 PGA Tour event were two-time defending champion Craig Stadler, who did not play a practice round; David Graham, the third-round leader in last week's Memorial tournament, and former University of Maryland star Bill Calfee, who made a hole in one on the 211-yard 16th.
Pate aggravated his left shoulder injury during the pro-am preceding the Tournament Players Championship, March 24-27, and had to withdraw from that tournament, in which he was defending champion. Pate, a man with a fluid swing and ungraceful driving style, will play his first competitive round in two months when he tees up in Thursday's first round.
"It's (the shoulder) almost back to where I want it," Pate said after playing nines holes yesterday. "I have to put ice on it after I play. It feels very good. I'm looking forward to playing this week. Congressional is a good golf course and it's in good condition."
The injury, a torn muscle near the collar bone, has hampered Pate since just before the 1982 British Open. He tore the muscle practicing long iron shots and had to withdraw from the last three events on the PGA Tour that year.
Yesterday he hit balls at the driving range and played his practice round accompanied only by his caddy and spectators. He threw some of his orange golf balls to children in the gallery, but there were no reports on what he or Graham shot.
Stadler, the tour's leading money winner last year but now in a slump, was accompanied by son Kevin, 3, as he signed in at the players' locker room. Stadler practiced putts but did not play. He played only nine holes in his practice round last year, went sightseeing with wife Sue and won by seven shots.
Calfee, who played for Maryland from 1967 to '71, used a three-iron on No. 16 for the sixth ace of his career.
"The ball hit six or eight feet in front of the hole and I just saw it disappear. The people were screaming and hollering," said Calfee, who said he shot about par 72.
Calfee said Congressional is in "super shape, certainly the best I've ever seen it."
Bill Black, manager of greens and grounds, said the course is in the best condition of four Kempers here.
"I feel it's a combination of things, a lot of hard work, some rain. It would be good for the course to have some sunshine. When it's wet we have difficulties in our mowing patterns," he said. "We like to have our fairways down very short to a half-inch and the greens to an eighth of an inch. The only problem right now is that there's a little too much moisture, and moisture slows the greens.
"The roughs are challenging. The last time we mowed the rough was last Monday and Tuesday at four inches, and it's grown a couple inches since then. There's a little more rough out there than in years past."
Larry Rinker, Ivan Smith and Bob Menne have withdrawn from the Kemper field and were replaced by Jon Chaffee, Rick Dalpos and Ken Kelley.