Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan hopes to celebrate his sophomore season on the PGA TOUR with a big ‘W’ this year.
The 26-year-old Pan enjoyed a solid rookie campaign during the 2016-17 season where he finished in 88th position on the FedExCup standings, thanks to three top-10s which included a runner-up outing at the Farmers Insurance Open.
This week, Pan will make his first tournament appearance of 2018 at the CareerBuilder Challenge at La Quinta in California and he hopes to pick up from where he left off in the fall with two top-20 finishes at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and RSM Classic being the key highlights.
“I want to get into TOUR Championship this season, so that means I have to finish in the top-30 of the FedExCup,” said Pan of his New Year goal.
“I was in contention a few times last season and I feel I have the ability to win. It’s just a matter of time. I need to put my mind in the right place to have a greater chance of winning. For me, the more I enjoy a tournament, the better I’ll play. Playing a round of golf is like creating a masterpiece … you have to pay attention to every detail to have a chance of winning.”
Pan conceded that his maiden year on TOUR was topsy-turvy, with 14 made cuts versus 15 missed cuts in 29 tournaments. However, he believes the experience has toughened him up. “As a rookie, the playing status is not great. You’re waiting to get into tournaments and you can’t plan a schedule,” he said.
“It’s a dream to play on the PGA TOUR and you want to perform …so you can get over excited too. It took me a while to really calm down and to feel comfortable. However, I’ve always felt like I belong on TOUR as I played in three major championships when I was still an amateur (U.S. Open in 2011 and 2013 and 2014 Open Championship). I wasn’t as good then but I knew how far I was behind and that was a motivation for me to work harder. My goal was to finish within the top-100 on the FedExCup last season, so to finish in 88th place was great.”
His entry onto the PGA TOUR has not come as a total surprise. As an amateur, Pan enjoyed a strong career at the University of Washington where he was a four-time All-American. With eight victories under his belt, he also rose to No. 1 on the world amateur golf ranking in 2013. He also delivered two gold medals for Chinese Taipei at the 2014 Asian Games and subsequently turned professional.
Pan then won twice on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada in 2015 from seven starts to gain “promotion” onto the Web.com Tour and he went on to produce seven top-10s from 22 tournaments in 2016 to lock up his PGA TOUR card by finishing in 11th place on the Web.com Tour Regular Season money list.
“The Web.com is a very different experience. Everything was new and you know you have to perform well. As a rookie, it’s tough to adjust. But I got on a nice run of form, secured my status on the PGA TOUR and also got into Olympics. I just got my confidence up and golf is such a mental game. I thought I had to spend a few years on the Web.com Tour but if you look at my professional career, it took me 15 months to get on to the PGA TOUR, which I’m really happy about,” said Pan.
His golfing dream began when he picked up the sport as a five-year-old due to the encouragement from his late father Jung Ho, who was a disciplinarian. His mother, Yeu Mei Kang, worked at a golf course near home which gave him and his older brother the opportunity to play the game. Pan’s first set of clubs was a mixed bag of junior equipment and cut-down adult clubs.
“My father loved golf. He told me the sport had the potential for me to make it into a career. It was also during the time when Tiger (Woods) was coming up and we watched a lot of golf on TV, watching Tiger winning the majors. My father told me I needed a lot of mental strength to be successful,” said Pan.
He attributed the opportunity to attend the IMG Academy in Bradenton as his big break in golf. Not only did he enjoy expert coaching, he also learned English to eventually gain a place at the University of Washington. He has since given back to the game in Chinese Taipei by running an annual junior golf camp over the past three years. “I’m the first from Chinese Taipei to graduate from a U.S. college and my experience can be used for the other kids,” said Pan.
“When our juniors turn 18 at home, they have limited tournaments to play and going over to U.S. colleges will give them the tournament experience that I enjoyed. I hope to influence Chinese Taipei parents with my story and tell them that education is equally important in a golf career,” he said.
From this week onwards though, Pan will be focusing on his own game in his aim to secure the first win on the PGA TOUR. And he knows a victory would inspire Chinese Taipei kids to follow in his path to success.