John Pak has already played at the legendary Winged Foot Golf Club, about seven years ago in a junior event. The stakes are a bit higher this week.
The Florida State senior, considered the top college golfer, earned a spot in this week’s U.S. Open due to his stellar resume. Usually the U.S. Open is, well, open to amateur or professional qualifiers. But due to coronavirus, there were no qualifying tournaments and Pak was the No. 7 amateur in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and made it in with the final allocated slot for an amateur.
“It means the world to me,” Pak said. “I’ve always been trying to get that first start on any PGA Tour event. I’ve been trying my whole life. I’m more shocked but I’m just really excited and happy.”
Pak grew up in Scotch Plains, N.Y., not far from the course in Mamaroneck, N.Y. He recalled playing it seven years ago and said, deadpan, “I don’t remember it being extremely tough.” Suffice it to say Pak will be playing a course set up to challenge the world’s best, with varying pin placements and higher rough.
“I’m just excited to see how my golf game will fare on such a difficult golf course,” Pak said.
One of the best golfers ever to play at FSU, Pak had a scoring average of 69.4 last season and 69.56 as a sophomore. He has won seven tournament titles, including the three-round Seminole Intercollegiate earlier this year at 11-under 205.
Pak becomes the fourth Seminole since 2009 to play as an amateur in the U.S. Open, joining Drew Kittleson (2009), Jack Maguire (2015) and Harry Ellis (2018).
“I am so happy for John,” FSU head coach Trey Jones said. “This is a great reward for his hard work and sacrifices. He has earned this opportunity as one of the top amateur golfers in the world, and it is a life-changing experience. This is another big step and opportunity that he will remember forever.”
Pak will tee off on Thursday at 12:21 p.m. and on Friday at 7:01 a.m. Another FSU golfer, Brooks Koepka, had to withdraw from the event due to a knee injury.
The US Open will begin on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. on The Golf Channel and move to NBC later in the day. A full TV schedule can be found here.