‘His ball just doesn’t move’
Consistency, discipline are key components for John Pak, the No. 1 golfer in the initial PGA TOUR University Ranking
July 22, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- July 22, 2020
- John Pak at the 2019 Walker Cup Match at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
John Pak has made sacrifices to pursue a pro golf career.
Now he’s one step closer to realizing that dream.
Pak, a Florida State senior, holds the top spot in the first edition of the PGA TOUR University Ranking, putting him in the pole position to earn Korn Ferry Tour status and an exemption into Q-School’s final stage next year. Those are the rewards that will be given to the top five in the PGA TOUR U standings after next year’s NCAA Championship.
Pak moved to Orlando, Florida, during high school to escape New Jersey’s harsh winters and increase his practice opportunities.
“That was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make,” said Pak, the youngest of five children. “I moved down with just my dad. Leaving them was hard because I’m very close with my family.”
Pak made the most of the move. His work ethic has allowed him to make steady progress in his golf career. It was instilled in him by his father, Kwang Pak, who owned two grocery stores.
“He spent hours and hours picking up the produce, spending time at the store, making sure the business was run properly,” Pak said. “He worked a lot of hours and retired at 52. He disciplined himself and that’s translated into my golf game.”
John Pak won two of his last three starts before the coronavirus pandemic cut the college season short. Last week’s Southern Amateur was his first event since, and he tied for sixth, five shots behind SMU senior McClure Meissner, who is No. 7 in the PGA TOUR U Ranking.
He’s spent the past few months in Tallahassee, Florida, to take advantage of the Seminoles’ training facilities. He often puts in two practice sessions per day, working on his game six to seven hours per day. He loves the process of improving.
When asked about his favorite aspect of the game, he said, “The fact that I want to be better. It’s such a difficult game. When things aren’t going right, I need to practice and work at it until I get it right.”
The work has paid off.
Pak has won seven times while playing for the Seminoles, including six of his past 16 starts. He is one short of the school wins record, an impressive achievement for a program that boasts PGA TOUR winners Brooks Koepka, Hubert Green, Daniel Berger, Kenny Knox, Nolan Henke and Jonas Blixt among its alumni.
As a sophomore, John had the lowest scoring average in school history (69.6 strokes). He finished first or second in more than half his starts that season, including four victories. He also set the school record for single-season scoring average (69.6) and was named a first-team All-American.
His scoring average was even lower last season (69.4), but Pak played just five events before it was canceled.
“Everything he does, he’s consistent,” Florida State head coach Trey Jones said. “His daily routines, his habits. It shows on the course.
“He’s not going to show up late. He knows what he’s going to do every day. He doesn’t wait until he gets to the course to figure it out. He has his disciplines that he does.”
Pak recently added stretching to the routine. Making practice swings in front of a full-length mirror to check his positions. That meticulous training has made consistent ball-striking the hallmark of his game.
“His ball just doesn’t move,” Jones said. “It’s comical at times how straight he hits it.”
His game is not one-dimensional, though. That was proven with his performance in last year’s Walker Cup on the links of Royal Liverpool. Pak earned his spot on the team after winning the 2019 Atlantic Coast Conference championship, being named a first-team All-American and advancing to the Round of 16 in both the U.S. Amateur and Western Amateur.
Pak was the only player on either team to go undefeated. He was 3-0 in one foursomes and two singles matches.
In the final session, Pak won the last two holes to defeat the reigning British Amateur champion, James Sugrue, and help his team to the largest victory by a visiting U.S. team since 1987.
“That experience was incredible,” Pak said. “I feel like if I could perform under that kind of pressure, I can perform under anything. It taught me a lot. That was probably the most nervous I’ve been in my entire life.”
It was good preparation for the PGA TOUR, a place that PGA TOUR University can help him reach.