Familiarity Breeds Confidence for Pan in Pro Debut
By Bill Fields
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Like two amateur stalwarts of a previous generation, Cheng-Tsung Pan is making his professional debut in the U.S. Open.
Scott Verplank (1986, Shinnecock Hills) and Phil Mickelson (1992, Pebble Beach) left behind distinguished collegiate careers to begin a new chapter in their golf lives at the national championship. Pan, who in 2007 became the youngest U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist since Bob Jones in 1916, is doing the same at Chambers Bay.
Pan, 23, a native of Chinese Taipei, graduated on June 13 from the University of Washington, where he was a two-time, first-team All-American and finished second individually in the 2015 NCAA Championships. He made a hole-in-one and was medalist in the sectional qualifier at Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum, Wash., to earn a spot in his third U.S. Open.
“I’m very excited,” said Pan. “It means the whole world to me, the whole world to my family. The timing is just incredible. I am trying to enjoy this week and play aggressively.”
After missing the cut in the 2011 U.S. Open and finishing 45th in 2013, Pan stands out in this week’s field for likely having played more competitive rounds at Chambers Bay than anyone. He made it to the Round of 64 in the 2010 U.S. Amateur and played in collegiate events at Chambers Bay the last two years.
“I feel comfortable on the tee shots and am very familiar with the environment,” said Pan, who has Washington men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond as his caddie. “I have played this course more than a dozen times. But it’s a major. You’ve still got to go out there and hit a bunch of good shots to have a shot to win. I probably know this course more [than most players], but you’ve still got to execute the shots.”