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Low Amateur Pak Enjoys Memorable Week at Winged Foot

September 20, 2020 - 1:10 PM
John Pak was the only amateur out of a starting field of 13 to make the 36-hole cut at Winged Foot. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)

As he walked out of the post-round scoring area on a sun-splashed Sunday at Winged Foot Golf Club, John Pak had a surprise waiting for him. On an oversized Cisco/Webex video board, Pak was greeted by several of his Florida State teammates who have been watching the 120th U.S. Open from afar. It was the perfect way to end a special week for the 21-year-old from Scotch Plains, N.J.

Later on Sunday, Pak, a senior at FSU, will receive his medal for being the championship’s low amateur, joining an illustrious list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. He also could be standing next to someone who, like Pak, would have been a college senior this year. Matthew Wolff, also 21, held a two-stroke lead going into the final round and was bidding to become the youngest U.S. Open champion in the post-World War II era.

That struck an inspiring chord with Pak, who competed against Wolff in junior, amateur and college tournaments.

“It’s very exciting because it just shows me that I have a chance because I competed against him,” said Pak. “I know it must be a great feeling to be him, to be leading the U.S. Open. Yeah, I’m really happy for him.”

Pak, a member of the victorious 2019 USA Walker Cup Team, started the week by playing a practice round with another past junior/amateur competitor, Joaquin Niemann, of Chile. On Sunday, his parents were allowed to watch him play the final round in person. His day included an eagle 2 on the par-4 sixth and a pair of birdies on the par-5 ninth and 12th holes. However, he closed with four consecutive bogeys for a 74 and an 18-over total of 298.

“[My parents] have been my biggest supporters my whole life, so that was really special,” said Pak, who got into the field by being one of the top seven points leaders in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®. “They got to see me playing in some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever played.”

With golf in the Atlantic Coast Conference postponed this fall, this likely was Pak’s last competitive event until January. He believes the Seminoles have a chance to win the NCAA title next spring, and he hopes to play in the 2021 Walker Cup Match next May at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla.

“That was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” said Pak of the 2019 Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, where he went 3-0 (2-0 in singles) in the five-point win. “This week, I proved all my hard work is paying off and my game is at a point where I can compete against the best players in the world.”