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Pastore aces second chance, wins first collegiate tournament

After yearlong hiatus, fall injury, senior wins Jim West Intercollegiate in playoff

Three years before senior David Pastore won his first collegiate event in a one-hole playoff at the Jim West Intercollegiate, he did not compete in a single tournament for the Virginia men’s golf team. The next year, he was not even on the team.

Following Pastore’s first year, coach Bowen Sargent dismissed him from the team. Sargent, now in his tenth season at Virginia, recounted Pastore as “obstinate” and “hard-headed” during his freshman season, unwilling to listen to the coaching staff.

Pastore did not play golf at all during the first semester of what would have been his sophomore season. After not touching a golf club for four months, he decided to email Sargent.

“I told him what he needed to do to in the next year if he wanted to try to come back and walk onto the team, and he did everything I asked and even more,” Sargent said. “And when I took him back on the team, he’s been the most pleasant, probably one of my favorite kids I’ve ever coached. He’s just done a 180 in terms of being able to coach him. … And I think he would agree that he’s really benefitted from opening up and being willing to change.”

Sargent gave Pastore three conditions he had to meet to come back to the team. He had to get his grades back up, he had to show that he was practicing and working hard on his game and, most of all, he had to change the attitude that led to his dismissal the previous spring.

So in January 2012, Pastore began to practice again by himself at Birdwood Golf Course, a memory he describes as lonely. Yet even after he began competing with Virginia’s club golf team in the spring, things only seemed to get worse.

“I remember distinctly one club tournament where one or two of the guys on the club team beat me and that was probably one of the low points, not because they weren’t good players, but I knew that wasn’t where I belonged,” Pastore said. “There’s a lot of doubt and things that go through your mind, but I just tried to get through it, work hard and I knew it would happen in the long run.”

Pastore’s perseverance paid off, as Sargent welcomed him back to the team that fall. The decision proved to be mutually beneficial. Pastore started in seven events that year — fourth most on the team — and finished as high as 12th at the Navy Invitational.

Entering his senior season at Virginia last fall, Pastore felt his game was in top form. He notched top-20 finishes in his first two tournaments and beat junior All-American Denny McCarthy by one stroke in the Cavaliers’ qualifying competition.

Before the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate in October, however, the senior suffered another setback. Pastore broke his hand, sidelining him until the spring season.

“I tried to tell myself it’s good it didn’t happen in the spring,” Pastore said. “It kind of happened at a good time, if that’s possible.”

Unable to practice, Pastore instead reflected and set clear goals for the spring. One of those goals: winning his first collegiate tournament.

By March 14, Pastore was back. He competed as an individual in the Schenkel Invitational, Sargent’s “soft way to break him back into competition.” After Pastore posted the third-best score of Virginia’s six golfers at the event, Sargent felt he was ready to start again.

Just more than a week later, Pastore shot his way to his first-ever top-10 finish at Hootie at Bulls Bay in Charleston, S.C. He finished in eighth place at 3-under 213, four strokes off the lead.

But with two regular season events remaining before the ACC and NCAA Championships, Pastore’s chances to win a tournament grew increasingly slim.

Then, at the Jim West Intercollegiate, he opened the event with a 6-under 66, the best 18-hole score of his Virginia career. After shooting a second-round 1-under 71, he went to bed Monday night four strokes off the leader, Virginia freshman Derek Bard, while also trailing teammates McCarthy and senior Ben Rusch by two and four strokes, respectively.

Pastore then shot another 6-under 66 Tuesday and when he entered the clubhouse at the end of the round, he discovered he and McCarthy were tied for first. To win his first collegiate event, he would need to edge his teammate in a playoff.

“I didn’t really know throughout the day where I stood, I tried to just stay focused on my game,” Pastore said. “I knew I had to be close to the lead, but I didn’t know where exactly I stood. It was a weird dynamic definitely to play a teammate in the playoff. … I know I wanted to win just as bad as he did, so we went out and tried our best to win despite being teammates.”

Before that day, Sargent had never had two of his own golfers tie for the lead at the end of a tournament. He wished them both good luck, but otherwise attempted to remain impartial.

McCarthy reached the middle of the green in two shots, while Pastore still had to chip onto the green after his second shot. But the senior managed to leave the ball four feet from the hole and after McCarthy three-putted, that four-foot downhill putt would finally give Pastore his first win.

Legs shaking, an “extremely nervous” Pastore sank the putt he said he’s visualized making in his head many times previously.

“I just really wanted to show myself, my teammates and coach that I can play well on a good course, I can shoot a good score and I can win,” Pastore said. “Denny’s a really good player and he’s had a good college career. I don’t want to say we’re rivals, but he’s definitely pushed me to get better. That’s why it means so much to me.”

Sargent said Pastore, who plans on turning professional after graduating, has always been one of the team’s top five golfers from an ability standpoint. Pastore’s tournament win further validated his hard work and his coach’s decision to give him a second chance.

“The odds of somebody winning are always small, even if you’re the best player,” Sargent said. “It’s always neat to see kids, how they respond to when they’re playing well, how they handle the pressure. And David is a very quiet, confident kid and he handled it beautifully.”