HOYLAKE, England – Looking back, Cheng-Tsung Pan should’ve listened to his caddie. Tom Heggarty advised his boss, a fellow college golfer, to hit 4-iron off the tee on No. 4 at the Open Championship, but Pan reached for the 3-iron.
Pan, a former World No. 1 amateur and senior at Washington, might have the more impressive resume, but it’s Heggarty who has been playing Hoylake since age 4. Heggarty, a senior at East Tennessee State, is the son of longtime Royal Liverpool head pro John Heggarty.
“Tomorrow I need to play well,” said Pan, who opened with a 2-over 74. “If I don’t listen to my caddie, I’ll give you a gun. You can shoot me in the head.”
Pan, 22, is one of four amateurs in the field at the 143rd Open Championship. England’s Ashley Chesters teed off in the morning and leads the amateur race at 2 under.
As the winds kicked up on Thursday afternoon, Pan played the last 11 holes in 1 under.
“Typical Pan,” Washington head coach Matt Thurmond said. “He’s really, really tough.”
The big momentum change came on the par-4 11th when Pan holed a 35-yard shot for birdie.
“It wasn’t an easy chip,” said Pan. “The lie was tight and the green sloped away from me. I had to catch it really clean.”
This marks Pan’s third major championship appearance. He has twice qualified for the U.S. Open, making the cut in 2013 at Merion. Pan punched his ticket to Hoylake, his first trip to the UK, by finishing second at International Qualifying in Thailand.
The 5-foot-7 Pan grew up in Taiwan and learned the game from his father, who took his sons to the local golf course where their mother worked as a caddie.
Pan made headlines at age 15 when he became the youngest player since Bobby Jones to make the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur in 2007. He then moved by himself to Bradenton, Fla., to attend the IMG Academy to better his game. Pan had missed a lot of school in Taiwan and his grades suffered. Thurmond worried he’d never get into a college, but Pan took a year to learn English and graduated from high school with a GPA about 3.7.
“That’s just so cool I think,” said Thurmond.
It was Thurmond’s assistant coach who first reached out to Pan about coming to Washington. Like most college coaches, Thurmond thought Pan would bypass college and turn professional. Instead, he’s two quarters away from becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree.
“We’ve had a lot of All-Americans since I’ve been here and none of them have turned pro early,” Thurmond said. “I’m proud of that.”
As for Heggarty, the local caddie who knows every which way the wind can blow around these parts, he’ll wait until the end of his senior season to determine if he’s going to begin a career in finance or in golf. Three times he has tried to qualify for the Open Championship, including this one, but has yet to make it through.
“This is as close as you can get to being in it without being in it,” said Heggarty, “and it’s less stress.”