Pan learns to close at RBC Heritage
Second-place finish at Wyndham Championship in 2018 helps him earn first PGA TOUR win
April 21, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
C.T. Pan earns first career victory at RBC HeritageIn the fourth round of the 2019 RBC Heritage, C.T. Pan jumped up the leaderboard after putting together a couple of clutch shots to earn his first-ever PGA TOUR win.
HILTON HEAD, S.C. – A year ago, C.T. Pan had a great chance to win the Wyndham Championship.
Pan stood on the 18th tee that Sunday, tied with Brandt Snedeker, only to watch forlornly as his drive sailed right, hitting the cart path and bouncing out of bounds. Pan ended up making double bogey while Snedeker rolled in a birdie putt and picked up the ninth win of his career.
The 27-year-old from Chinese Taipei got another opportunity realize his life’s dream on Sunday at the RBC Heritage, and this time Pan didn’t let the opportunity slip away.
On an afternoon of attrition at Harbour Town, Pan held steady down the stretch, grabbing the lead with a birdie at the 16th hole, then gutting out pars on the final two holes. His 67 left Pan at 12 under and one stroke ahead of Matt Kuchar, the FedExCup leader who finished two groups ahead and applied pressure when he birdied the 72nd hole.
And as he sat in the media center wearing the RBC Heritage’s trademark tartan jacket, Pan later acknowledged that the near-miss at Sedgefield last year played a big role in Sunday’s victory.
“It definitely changed my perception on the last couple of holes down the stretch of what I should do,” he said. “The last three holes I would say I played really well here, a lot of good shots just because I told myself I need to focus on the details, the little things, and just stay in present. …
“And that's something I didn't do at Wyndham.”
The little things, like studying the final-round pin placements on Saturday night so he’d be comfortable with the shots he’d need to hit. Pan wanted to make it through the first four holes in even par, which he did, then fire at the pins from Nos. 5-13, which he also did, playing those holes in 4 under.
“And that’s how I snuck on the leaderboard,” said Pan, who moves to No. 26 in the FedExCup standings with the win. “And I’m just happy I executed my strategy very well there.”
Pan also made a point of getting to the course by 9 a.m. Sunday – four-and-a-half hours before his tee time – to work out the kinks after an adventurous third-round 69 that includes six birdies, four bogeys, an eagle and a double bogey.
“Yesterday, my wife is not happy with my round,” Pan said with a smile. “It was too colorful for her.”
Michelle Pan, who had made a short-lived appearance as her husband’s caddy in Greensboro, wasn’t on hand to share in his joy at Harbour Town on Sunday, though. She was in Houston serving as the host of the at the C.T. Pan Junior Championship at The Clubs of Kingwood.
Pan, who honed the skills that earned him a scholarship to the University of Washington on the AJGA circuit from 2007-2010, had planned to be there, too. But he hadn’t finished higher than 42nd in his nine previous starts, and Michelle urged her husband to play in Hilton Head instead.
“Just listen to your wife and you will have a good life,” Pan said.
C.T. Pan's Round 4 highlights from RBC Heritage
The AJGA event concluded on Saturday and Pan was thrilled to find out that one of the 10 aspiring golfers he brought over from Chinese Taipei won the girls division.
“So, this is one of the best weekends that I've ever had,” Pan said.
Inspiring the next generation of golfers in his home country is important to Pan, who is the youngest of six children.
He first started playing at an abandoned driving range where he and his brother and his late father, an elementary school teacher, would create holes with makeshift pin flags. By the time Pan was 7, he was competing in local junior tournaments and he was able to play at the local course where his mother still works as a caddie.
Pan’s father could see that his son had talent, and he encouraged him every step of the way. A second-place finish at the 2006 Asian Games attracted attention in the United States and soon Pan was headed to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
He was 15 and he spoke virtually no English when he arrived in the Sunshine State. But Pan was nothing if not driven, and he knew his father was right.
“He told us that he believed this sport has a really good potential in the future,” Pan said. “And obviously I didn't know anything back then. And it was right time when with Tiger, it was '96, I believe, when Tiger coming up like crazy. He's still crazy.
“But, yes, my family is a big part of my golf career. … So I just miss a lot of my family, this W.”
The win has opened a lot of doors for Pan, who joins T.C. Chen as the only players from Chinese Taipei to win a PGA TOUR event – and the first in 32 years. He’s much closer to his goal of playing in the season-ending TOUR Championship after finishing 35th and 88th in his first two seasons.
“Hopefully, this year I’ll do something special, just like this win, to secure it,” Pan said.
Oh, and there’s that invitation to Augusta National that he’ll get in the mail early next year. Pan and his wife had watched on TV with great interest as Tiger Woods won the Masters on Sunday, and now they’ll get to experience it first-hand.
“She was like, hey, I’m not patient at all, so you better get me there as soon as possible,” Pan recalled. “And she doesn’t want to caddie for me anymore in tournaments. She only wants to caddie for the Par-3 events.
“So now I can fulfill my promise.”
Pan’s victory Sunday also will certainly put him on Ernie Els’ radar screen as he contemplates his International Presidents Cup team – if the 2016 Olympian wasn’t there already.
“It would be my biggest honor to play under Captain Els,” he said. “… And back home in Taiwan, I mean, we don't have a Ryder Cup in Asia. And I just feel it's kind of unfortunate for the golf fans back home in Asia.
“And I think the Presidents Cup will be something like that. And it will inspire more kids to play golf or inspire more people to follow golf.”
Just like he did on Sunday at Harbour Town.
C.T. Pan's news conference after winning RBC Heritage