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Strives for Presidents Cup International Team
When C.T. Pan was growing up, it coincided with his father getting hooked on golf which ultimately would set a new course for a young boy’s life.
A certain golfer, who was half Asian and named Tiger Woods, was beginning to dominate the game with such fervour and excitement that the Pan family was drawn to the game and watched live golf broadcasts into the wee hours for the major events.
Little would Pan realise that his father’s love for the sport and his mother’s labour of love at a local golf club where she worked as a caddie would lead him all the way to the PGA TOUR.
“My father loved golf and he told me when I was young that the sport had the potential to be a career. When I was five, we watched a lot of golf on TV and it was during the time that Tiger was coming through. We watched Tiger win majors and dad just kept telling me the sport had a lot potential,” reflected Pan.
With a big dose of raw talent and a built-in desire for hard work, Pan transformed from a boy with big dreams to a professional golfer now entering his third full season on the PGA TOUR.
He achieved a career-high 35th place finish in the 2017-18 FedExCup points standing, thanks to two top-fives and 10 top-25s. He contended for a first win on several occasions including at the Dell Technologies Championship in September which he finished fourth. The timing was perfect as it marked the start of the points race to make the International Team for the Presidents Cup in Royal Melbourne, Australia in 9-15 December, 2019.
Currently eighth on the International Team standings, Pan is keen to sustain his push to make Ernie Els’ International Team which will face the United States. “We’ve not had a player from Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) on the Presidents Cup team and I want to make history by being the first one,” said Pan, who is competing in THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in South Korea this week.
“The Ryder Cup sparks great enthusiasm amongst the fans and that’s something I want to do for golf fans in Taiwan. Our fans don’t have a team to root for … I want to make the team for the fans.”
The Ryder Cup sparks great enthusiasm amongst the fans and that’s something I want to do for golf fans in Taiwan. Our fans don’t have a team to root for … I want to make the team for the fans
Pan looks back with fondness at how his late father had pushed him and his older brother (Fu-chiang) to the driving range when they were boys. When he 11 years old, he willingly spent hours harnessing his golf skills which led to several victories in junior competitions both at home and regionally.
As he grew up in a working-class family, Pan’s first clubs were a mixed bag comprising of junior clubs and cut-down adult irons. He did not receive formal coaching, relying instead on instructions and tips published in local golf magazines and through watching tournaments on TV.
“I had clubs by different types of brands back then,” said Pan. “We were like a sponge, we just absorbed everything. We always tried different things and figured it out. As my brother was also playing, we had a lot of fun together. It helped us bond as a family. My father was quite strict and he made us practice and improve ourselves.”
Pan’s golf interest received a boost when he was invited to join the IMG National Academy in Bradenton, Florida in 2007. It meant leaving home as a teenager to the U.S. where he would learn how to be independent and discipline.
His biggest challenge back then wasn’t about competing against American kids but learning to speak English. “I didn’t speak English before I arrived in the U.S. My family was excited about the opportunity but they were also worried at the same time as I had to be on my own,” said Pan.
“However, I knew this was a great opportunity as our financial situation was not great. To earn the scholarship, I knew I had to go to the U.S. At first, it was hard learning English and I had one-on-one tutoring during my first two months there. After six months, I started forming sentences and within a year, I could attend regular high school.”
As his English improved, Pan’s golf also developed rapidly that he won AJGA tournaments. He earned a place in the University of Washington, where he was as two-time All American, and helped Chinese Taipei win the team and individual gold medal in 2014 Asian Games.
He subsequently turned professional and competed on the McKenzie PGA TOUR Canada, winning twice during the summer of 2015. The early success pushed him onto the Web.com Tour in 2016 and after posting seven top-10s during a year where he also qualified and played in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Pan earned his status on the PGA TOUR.
“I thought I had to spend a few years on the Web.com Tour and if you look at my professional career, it took me like 15 months to get to PGA TOUR, which I’m happy about,” said Pan.
After last season’s strong run, Pan is setting new goals, including winning a first PGA TOUR title – a feat achieved previously by countryman T.C. Chen who won the LA Open in 1987.
“I’ve talked to a lot of veterans and they say, you've just got to put yourself in contention more often. The more often you put yourself in contention, the more likely you are going to win. My first year, I was in contention maybe three, four times. Last year I was actually in contention five or six times. That's all I'm trying to do … just put myself in position after two rounds or after three rounds,” he said.
“If you look at Jack Nicklaus’ stats, he won 18 majors and he finished second place 20 plus times, so that tells you a lot.”
From a young boy growing up in Taipei, Pan has certainly come a very long way in chasing his golf dream on the PGA TOUR.
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