June 2020

C.T. Pan: A C2 exclusive interview

Author: Justin Jarrett

C.T. Pan wasn’t planning to come to Hilton Head Island last April. He was putting on his inaugural junior golf event at home in Houston, and the game plan was to play well enough in the first three months of the year to take the week off when the PGA Tour headed to Harbour Town Golf Links for the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

But you know what they say about best-laid plans.

When Pan missed the cut at the Valero Texas Open the week before the Masters, it was his third missed cut in five starts, and the pressure to earn a paycheck was mounting. Pan’s wife, Michelle, knew Harbour Town suited her husband’s game and insisted he play that week. She would handle the AJGA event.

Luckily for Pan, he had the good sense to listen to his wife and left Sea Pines as a PGA Tour champion. The 28-year-old native of Chinese Taipei returned to the island for the first time since his big win for RBC Heritage Media Day, and he made time to chat with us at C2 magazine.

C2: You came to the U.S. alone as a 15-year-old, unable to speak English. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think when you took that step that you would be standing here today as a PGA Tour champion? It’s a long way from where you started to where you are now.
CTP.: It’s a long way. I’m 28. I came here when I was 15, so 13 years ago. If you asked me if I will one day become a PGA Tour winner, I would be … I couldn’t even speak English! It’s been quite a journey. It’s been a wild ride, but my dad and I definitely made the right decision to come to the States, and it turned out nicely.

C2: Did you ever have doubts about that? Did you ever question whether that was the right decision along the way?
CTP.: No. I mean, now that I think about, it was pretty wild. I was naive to come to the States by myself, not speaking any English, and my parents not with me. That was really tough. But I toughed it through, and I guess that was definitely the turning point of my life.

C2: What is it like to come back to Sea Pines and to Harbour Town for the first time as a champion? I imagine there are a lot of memories flooding back.
CTP.: It is a great feeling. I can tell you that. It’s really cool to have my wife with me. She wasn’t here last year, so it’s cool for me to bring her here the last couple of days and show her what I did on the seventeenth hole and on 18, and what I did on the range, where the celebration happened. And she saw No. 18, which is a very cool hole to do it. And you know, it’s a special one. My first PGA Tour win happened to be here, and my portrait, my painting, will be up there on the clubhouse forever. I just found out today, and it definitely makes me want to defend my title even more.

C2: How much did you know about this tournament before you won it? Did you have an idea of the history, or did that come after you won?
CTP.: It definitely came after. I didn’t know Arnold Palmer won the first one, and I didn’t know Pete Dye did this course as his first course with Nicklaus. So that was really cool to kind of be associated with such big names—legends like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye. And you know Davis Love III won here five times, so the past winners are all legends in golf; it’s really cool to be associated with that.

C2: With your wife so busy running the AJGA tournament that weekend, was she able to watch much of the Heritage on TV and follow along?
CTP.: It’s funny. I think when I was leading after the fifteenth hole, she was giving a speech at the awards ceremony, and the kids down there, they were all crazy. They were all yelling, “Hey, C.T.’s leading, C.T.’s leading.” And she was like, “No, you’re kidding me.” She was able to watch the last couple of holes.

C2: How much has winning the Heritage changed your life? Winning that first PGA Tour event gets you the card for two more years, gets you into the Masters, and things like that. Have you seen a noticeable change in your life in the past year?
CTP.: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this win is the only reason I made it to the President’s Cup. The exposure in the President’s Cup helps me as a professional golfer massively. It also got me into the Masters, and it just helps me in every way. I mean, I cannot ask for a better result than this or any better tournament.

C2: How do the crowds and the atmosphere here at Harbour Town compare to some of the other places on the PGA Tour?
CTP.: Just better in every way. The fans are better—not too wild (laughing)—but they are here to watch good golf. And the weather, the golf course, the design, everything is better. This is definitely a true golf tournament, because it’s focused on golf. So, I would say for spectators it’s the best tournament to watch.

C2: Do you feel like the crowds are more knowledgeable and more engaged than some of the other places on tour?
CTP: Oh yeah, I think the fans are great. They know golf. And they know every single player. The fans from Hilton Island Island know this is the biggest event in the region, and they want to support it. Plus, golf is big here, so they know every golfer. They even knew me before I became famous! All I can say is the fans are better.

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