Shep Rose of ‘Southern Charm’ shares his best RBC Heritage tips
But he left Hilton Head Island with a plaid jacket and $1.2 million — close to half his total previous career earnings — and his first win on the PGA Tour.
Giants of the game lurked ahead and behind on the Harbour Town Golf Links Sunday, but he won the $6.9 million event with a come-from-behind, four-under-par 67 in the final round, and 12-under overall.
South Carolina native Dustin Johnson, a 20-time winner on the tour, led the field by a stroke entering play on a sunny but windy Easter Sunday. But the world’s top-ranked player collapsed on the back nine, carding a 6-over-par to finish tied for 28th.
Playing just ahead of Pan was another local favorite, 2014 Heritage champion Matt Kuchar, with almost $50 million in career earnings and nine PGA Tour titles.
Kuchar ended up giving the 27-year-old native of Taiwan the best run for his money. Kuchar birdied the 18th hole to thrill a crowd shouting “Kooch” “Kooch,” and pull him to within a shot of the lead at 11-under.
With at least 10 players bunched within three strokes of each other over much of the back nine, Pan earned the title that he said makes him the first native of Taiwan to win on the tour in 30 years.
“I certainly had a chance,” Kuchar said afterward. “I had to make that birdie on the last. That was a thrill. I thought it might be good enough. Hats off to C.T. for closing strong. Those last three holes — 16, 17 and 18 — are tricky holes with the wind. To play those steady is well done.”
Pan’s wife and sometimes caddie was not here to see it. But if not for her, neither would Pan have come to the South Carolina Lowcountry for the 51st Heritage in Sea Pines.
“Unfortunately, my wife, she’s not here because she’s handling my first AJGA event in Houston,” Pan said.
He had hoped to stay there and help, particularly since they brought a group of girls from Taiwan to play.
But, he said, “My wife told me to be here.
“Just listen to your wife and you will have a good life. She’s right, always.”
Pan’s big break came when he sank a putt of almost 9 feet to birdie the 16th hole to get to 12-under.
“I just knew I needed to shoot 13-under to secure a W,” he said. “And that was my goal.”
Without a wicked lip-out on his birdie putt on No. 18, he would have met that goal.
“And that’s just something I’m trying to do,” he said. “I always set my short-term goal to help me to focus on the present, just to live in the moment, I guess.”
Pan (real name: Pan Cheng-tsung) played golf at the University of Washington, graduating in 2015 with a degree in communications. He turned pro the same year.
He said this win fulfills a family dream.
“My mom, she’s a caddie,” he said. “And my dad also works at a golf course where I practice. And that’s how I know golf, basically because my parents work there.
“Just one day my dad told me and my brother ... that he believed this sport has a really good potential in the future.”
His dad has since passed away.
“I can remember all the late nights watching the Masters or watching the PGA Tour events, watching Tiger Woods winning,” Pan said.
“And my dad would tell me, hey, I want you one day to do that for me.
“And, Dad, finally, we’ve done it.”
▪ What a difference a year makes: Defending Heritage champion Satoshi Kodaira of Japan made the cut, but fell from first in 2018 to last in 2019. Kodaira started the final round at 5-over-par, then melted down with an 11-over on Sunday, with triple-bogeys on holes 13 and 16.
▪ More to love: Five-time RBC Heritage champion Davis Love III’s last-minute withdrawal from what would have been his 31st Heritage was due to the birth of his third grandchild, the Golf Channel reported. Alice Montgomery was born to his daughter Alexia on Wednesday. Davis dashed home to St. Simons Island, Georgia, on Wednesday and planned to return for the tournament but did not. Davis’ father played in the first Heritage tournament, and his son, Dru, played in the Heritage on a sponsor’s exemption in 2018.
▪ Whole world’s watching: Nations represented by players atop the leaderboard going into the final round include the United States, England, Slovakia, Ireland, South Korea, Argentina and Chinese Taipei.