Pan Exemplifies The Best
by Louie Chan / Images: Getty Images
C.T. Pan enjoyed a career breakthrough in 2019 following his maiden PGA Tour victory. He followed up on his dream by becoming the first Chinese Taipei golfer to qualify for the Presidents Cup at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December. In this Q&A, Pan, who turns 27 this month, talks about his recent success, his bid to deliver another Chinese Taipei triumph at Royal Melbourne, and why he is giving back to the game through his junior golf programme.
Lin Yingchun, C.T. Pan’s wife, carries her husband’s bag during the 2018 Wyndham Championship
HK Golfer: You enjoyed your first win on the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage in April. How do you hope your success will impact golf in Chinese Taipei?
C.T. Pan: I really hope to see more kids being brave enough to step out of their comfort zone and head to the United States. We are encouraging kids to play more in the U.S. and also learn to speak English. I’m encouraging them to explore the U.S. college system like I did (he attended the University of Washington) which helped develop my career.
HKG: How do you reset your goals after a year like 2019?
CTP: After achieving that first win, I want to win at least once every season. The feeling of being in contention and winning is awesome. Having the opportunity to win comes with so many benefits - a two-year exemption, a great prize purse and the fans’ support. It’s something to savour. Winning on the PGA Tour has always been something I’ve dreamed of. In the 2019-20 season, my goal is to get into the Tour Championship (top-30 on the FedExCup points list). In the past two years, I’ve been knocking on the door, getting close; I just need to improve some aspects of my game.
HKG: It’s tough to succeed on the PGA Tour, but you’ve enjoyed three solid seasons. What’s your secret?
CTP: I know what I’m good at and I stick at it. During my first year on the Tour, my college coach sent me a video of Steve Stricker saying something along the lines of that when you get on Tour, there will be people telling you to change this and that to improve. However, Steve said you have to stick to what you’re good at, and not give up what you have, and remember what got you into the PGA Tour. Sometimes you see superstars, and you want to push yourself to hit it longer, and you change something. I realise I just need to play my own game and I’m never going to hit the ball 330 yards. I recognise my strengths and that’s how I play good golf. My wife Michelle also reminds me what to focus on.
HKG: Has the excitement of qualifying for your first Presidents Cup settled down? What does it all mean to you?
CTP: It feels awesome. I had a good year. I didn’t play well over the past few months, but before the qualifying deadline I had three good tournaments to lock it down, especially the last one (the BMW Championship) where I played with Tiger for the first time, which was challenging, but I was able to shoot some good scores to secure my place. If you can play with Tiger and play well in his company, then you can play with anyone on any course. It gave me the confidence I needed to get onto the International Team.
C.T. Pan will be the first Chinese Taipei golfer to play in the Presidents Cup
C.T. Pan hopes his success on the PGA Tour will impact golf in Chinese Taipei
HKG: How has Captain Ernie Els been in the team meetings you’ve attended thus far?
CTP: He’s done so much. He created a new logo and gave us our own flag to fight for, which means a lot, and you feel everyone is going to be fighting together. He has also done a lot to ensure that every player is on the same page. The logo, the flag is a big thing as it shows we are one team. That’s very important as we are so diverse, but there’s a high level of team spirit.
HKG: You’ve played at Royal Melbourne a few times previously, finishing T5 in the 2014 Asia Pacific Amateur Championship and also in the Australian Masters. How will it test players?
CTP: Royal Melbourne is very demanding as it requires a lot of accuracy from off the tee and in the approach shots, which is something I’m good at. There are spots you don’t want to miss, and I’ve played there often enough to know some of the pin positions. More importantly, I feel I’ll be very comfortable on the course and won’t feel like a first-timer, which always helps when you are competing.
HKG: Who will be the favourite in Australia?
CTP: If you look at the Official World Golf Ranking, the U.S. Team is the favourite, which is fine. Matchplay is different though. The world ranking is based on stroke-play tournament results and in matchplay, we know anything can happen. I feel we have good matchplay players on our team.
HKG: It seems like a positive coincidence that you’ll be the first Chinese Taipei golfer to play in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, a venue where Chinese Taipei claimed a famous win at the 1972 World Cup of Golf through Lu Liang-huan and Hsieh Min-nan.
CTP: That’s a pretty cool and interesting coincidence. It’ll be great to replay history and make it happen again, especially as I’m the first Chinese Taipei player to make the Presidents Cup. To have the chance to be part of history is amazing.
HKG: It’s going to be sort of a double celebration as your young compatriot, C.T. Lin has also made it into the Junior Presidents Cup International Team. It must be exciting to see one of your junior golf programme kids breaking out in this manner.
CTP: Lin has been attending our year-end training camps in Taipei over the past few years, and he played in our inaugural C.T. Pan Junior Championship in Texas in April. It was his first time competing in the U.S., and he played well enough to earn an invitation to another AJGA tournament in May and finished in the top-15. From there, he was offered a scholarship by the University of Washington (Pan’s alma mater). When we first met Lin at my junior camp, he didn’t have any interest in playing abroad. His family was aiming for him to go through the Asian Tour route, which is good, but I wanted our kids to have new options. We flew 10 of them to the U.S. for my tournament, and this continues to be my annual commitment towards junior development.