NJ Native John Pak reflects on U.S. Open; sets sights on his Future
September 24, 2020 - Scotch Plains native John Pak made a name for himself as the low amateur in last week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club, replicating a feat that superstars like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson also achieved.
Soon, if things fall into place, Pak is ready to join them as a professional golfer.
In late July, Pak, a Florida State senior, attained the No. 1 position in the newly-created PGA Tour University Ranking. The top five collegiate golfers at the conclusion of the 2021 college season will earn Korn Ferry Tour status and an exemption into Q-School’s final stage next year.
Following his performance at the U.S. Open, Pak solidified his No. 1 PGA Tour University ranking in a system that applies finishes from NCAA Division 1 events, as well as all major championships and PGA Tour events over a rolling two-year period.
After competing amongst the greatest golfers in the world, Pak is more than ready to take the next step.
“I don’t know if what I did at the Open changed my life, but it definitely gave me more motivation. Over the next few months, I want to work hard and prove that I can play with the best,” said Pak, who learned to play the game in the junior program at Royce Brook Golf Club in Hillsborough.
According to Pak, his stats show that he fits in with the professionals. His average drive of 310 yards placed him squarely in the middle of the U.S. Open performers, and he was above average in hitting fairways and greens.
“But my putting and short game stats weren’t as good - and, when you’re out there, you also notice that everyone is big and strong - so improving my physique is important. Those will be the biggest goals of my off-season,” said Pak, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 160 pounds.
“With my performance at the Open, it definitely gives me a lot of confidence, even though I didn’t play as well as I’d like over the final three days,” said Pak, who fired a one-under-par 69 and tied for 14th place in the Open after the first round. He finished at 69-79-76-74, 18-over-par 298, good for 51st place.
“On the plus side, I did beat some of the best golfers in the world. If I work a little harder this coming season at Florida State, I feel I can compete with them on a week-to-week basis.”
Last September, Pak proved he can shine on a big stage. He was the only American to go 3-0 in his matches in the Walker Cup at England’s Royal Liverpool, leading the United States to its first victory over Great Britain and Ireland on foreign soil since 2007. He won one foursomes match and two singles matches.
Playing without fans at the U.S. Open was nothing new for Pak.
“Other than the Walker Cup, I haven’t really played in front of a lot of fans,” said Pak, whose parents were allowed on the course at Winged Foot to watch his final round.
“The whole experience was awesome. Being on that first tee on the first day is something I’ve dreamed about my whole life. For it to come true made it a great experience I’ll never forget.”
Photo courtesy Florida State University Athletics/USGA