Destiny's child CT Pan ready to defend his RBC Heritage title after missing Players Championships

V Krishnaswamy

CT Pan is an extremely interesting and engaging person. He almost did not play the 2019 RBC Heritage event, which he ultimately won, because it clashed with a junior event he was sponsoring in Houston. This year in March, he created a stir by withdrawing from The Players Championship citing safety reasons as Coronavirus was spreading all around the world. When the tournament was cancelled after the first round, Pan's decision was termed as a "great call".

Next, much to his disappointment, Pan seemed to have been denied a chance to defend his title as the 2020 RBC Heritage was cancelled. But fate suddenly turned things around and weeks later it was back on the reworked calendar, with a June date instead of the original April date.

Even as he kept himself busy with making videos for his YouTube Channel and kept training at his make-shift mini range in his garage, he and Michelle also purchased a RV to travel in from tournament to tournament in to lessen the risk of potentially catching the virus.

Now the ever-careful Pan is all set to defend his title, as he arrived from Fort Worth to Hilton Head, South Carolina in his newly-purchased Recreational Vehicle (RV).

He added, "We're still trying to be careful. My wife and I, we recently purchased an RV, so we don't need to fly. And just wash our hands and just trying to be safe in every way we can. Yeah, it's a different world."

Pan has worked his way up the ladder. From doing well in junior circles to getting into Taiwan's National Amateur squad for the 2014 Asian Games, where he won two gold medals. He moved to the IMG Academy in the US and then turned pro and played the PGA Tour Canada, the Korn Ferry (then Tour and finally the PGA Tour, where he won the 2019 RBC Heritage title.

Indian fans may be interested in knowing that Udayan Mane, who has won three times and finished second once in last four starts on Indian domestic Tour, was Tied-4th and missed a bronze medal by a shot, while Pan won the gold at the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. Taiwan also won team gold, where India was sixth.

Pan turned pro in 2015 and in 2019 became only the second Taiwanese pro to win on the PGA Tour after TC Chen's win at the 1987 Los Angeles Open.

Last year, Pan may well have not been playing the RBC Heritage but for his wife, Michelle. That same week last year, Michelle was looking after the hosting of the inaugural CT Pan Junior Championship at The Clubs of Kingwood. Michelle convinced Pan to go and play RBC Heritage, while she looked after the junior event. The rest is history.

Pan took a one-shot lead on 16th with a birdie and held off Matt Kuchar by a stroke to win the title.

This year Michelle has ensured on-course view of Pan's title defence €" she will be his caddie at Hilton Head.

Pan, who had his 'virtual' press conference ahead of the 2020 edition, recalled the 2019 win and his first practice session at Hilton Head this year and said, "Obviously, it's my first victory, and it's probably the one I will always remember. Actually, this morning I played the back nine, and my wife is on the bag this week actually. She wasn't here last year when I won. So I told her how I played each hole and even each shot. I even showed her where the hole locations are and like the birdie putt on 16, the par save on 17 from the top bunker, and 18 I hit a great shot, the approach shot to 15 feet.

"So that was really fun to go through that again and having her inside the ropes and caddying for me because she wasn't here last year. So it's great to be back."

This season has been a little low-key with just one Top-25 finish in 11 starts. He was T-11 at the Mayakoba Classic in Hilton Head. He has failed to get into the weekend in his last three starts, including Charles Schwab Challenge last week.

Talking about what he did during the lockdown and how he prepared for the return, he said, "The whole nation is struck down, so I stayed at home like most people do, and I set up an indoor driving range in my garage. So I was just doing some drills and doing some TrackMan work."

"In addition to that, I created a YouTube channel to share my tips, golf tips with my fans, so that went well and people love it. So I was really happy to see that.

Starting in May, I started going to the golf course, my home club at BlueJack National, and started playing golf. It was weird the first shot hitting the ground, but I definitely appreciate that more."

"This course fits my eyes really well, like all the tee shots. So I think that will be really helpful to me."

On the emotions of first seeing the event being cancelled and then finding it back on the schedule, Pan said, "Yeah, I remember a couple of days after I drove back to my home from The Players, a bunch of events were cancelled. And I was really sad to see this cancelled because I thought maybe the PGA Tour would cancel the first two or three, and then we'll be back up again with the Masters and RBC, but that was not the case. So I was really sad to see that.

"So when they announced the new schedule, it was quite a surprise to me that RBC is the second event on the schedule, so I was really happy to see that. My wife and I, we love this place. We love coming back here."

Talking of the withdrawal from The Players Championship, he said, "It was a really tough decision. In my whole career, including junior golf, I've never withdrawn from a tournament. I can tell you an example like in Junior Worlds when I was 11, my nose was bleeding, and I still insisted on playing. So back in March, that was a really tough decision for me, but for the safety of my family and myself, my wife and I, we think that's the right call to pull myself out early."

"Honestly, Players Championship is the biggest event on the PGA Tour, and a lot of people come to watch. So it's not a good spot to be a lot of times."

He went on, "I think the Tour has put out so much effort the last two months to create a safe environment for us to play," he said. "Last week I was totally impressed by how they did things. The testing is impressively quick and easy. The social distancing, they're still doing that. And the grab and go meals, that's something I suggested them to do, and they said that's great, that they would do that."

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