Waskesiu, Saskatchewan – SPORTS – John Pak, the acclaimed national college player of the year of 2021, has just scored his first professional win. He’s been through the wringer, he’s been tested, and he’s come out shining on the other side.
Pak roared ahead of the pack on Sunday, firing off birdies like a man on a mission, and finished with a blistering 7-under 63, giving him a final score of 21-under 269 at the Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open presented by Brandt. And what a victory it was, folks, with a comfortable four-shot lead over the competition. “I was overcome with joy,” Pak confessed, and rightfully so. The hard work, the dedication, it all paid off.
Despite the stiff competition from Chris Korte and Connor Howe, who shared the second place, Pak’s stunning performance remained unrivaled. Korte, the powerhouse from Littleton, Colorado, closed with a 6-under 64, while Howe, Ogden’s finest, ended with a 66. Sam Choi’s effort was commendable, closing with an impressive 8-under 62, tying for third place with third-round co-leader, Wilson Andress.
This victory has propelled Pak into second place in the season-long Fortinet Cup standings, securing 500 points and trailing just behind Étienne Papineau, who remained in pole position with 517 points.
Our top Canadian contender, Noah Steele of Kingston, Ontario, tied for eighth place with a score of 14-under 266. His fellow countryman, Ziggy Nathu, was not far behind, tying for 13th place at 12 under.
John Pak, who had a remarkable college career at Florida State, earning the Ben Hogan Award and the Fred Haskins Award, faced a rocky start to his professional journey. But, after overcoming wrist surgery and a string of disappointing performances, he’s proved all the naysayers wrong. “I know a lot of people have their doubts. I’ve had my doubts,” Pak said. “But this kind of just proved to myself that I can still get it done.”
Pak’s game was on point right from the start of the final round, with birdies on the opening hole, the sixth, seventh, and then again at the tenth and eleventh. Despite a brief hiccup at the eighth hole, Pak maintained his composure, increased his lead to four shots with a birdie at the thirteenth, and sealed the deal with birdies on the sixteenth and seventeenth. “I was still very nervous,” Pak admitted. “But having a four-shot lead coming to the 18th hole was nice… I stuck to my process and hit a good 2-iron right down the middle and just trusted my game from there.”
Celebrating the victory, Pak’s first call was to his parents, sharing an emotional moment with his greatest supporters. “They’re always pushing me to get better. They’re always supporting me. Yeah, it was emotional,” he shared.
In other highlights, Chris Korte’s round was marked by a spectacular eagle at the sixteenth hole and four birdies, securing his second runner-up finish of the season. Sam Choi made an impressive run, carding the lowest score of the week with seven straight birdies on the back nine.
Here’s a fun fact for you: John Pak boasts a flawless 3-0-0 record at the 2019 Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. He’s a fighter, folks, and this win at the Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open presented by Brandt just goes to show that Pak is a
force to be reckoned with on the green. It’s safe to say that this golf prodigy’s professional career has officially taken flight.
As we look at the Fortinet Cup Standings, Pak’s sensational win has catapulted him to the second position, narrowly trailing behind Canada’s Étienne Papineau. Pak’s victory, his best finish in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned Tour tournament to date, has undoubtedly shaken up the leaderboard.
Despite a rocky start to his professional career and a minor wrist surgery in March, Pak has bounced back stronger than ever, proving his mettle and silencing his critics. “It’s a scary process. No one knows. It could turn out better, it could turn out worse. But I kept trusting my process and my coaches, doing the right things. And it led to this and I’m super thankful for that,” he remarked.
In other notable performances, hard-charging Sam Choi of Malibu, California, turned heads with a scintillating 8-under 62. Choi’s brilliant streak of seven consecutive birdies from holes 11 through 17 saw him finishing with the lowest score of the week.
Not to be outdone, Chris Korte, hailing from Littleton, Colorado, wrapped up his round with an impressive 6-under 64, thanks in part to an eagle at the 16th hole. His performance secured him a shared second place with Connor Howe of Ogden, Utah.
The tournament also saw some stellar performances from Canadian players. Noah Steele of Kingston, Ontario, was the top Canadian finisher, tying for eighth place with a score of 14-under 266. Ziggy Nathu of Richmond, British Columbia, was hot on his heels, tying for the 13th place at 12 under.
In a thrilling conclusion to the tournament, Pak emerged victorious, affirming his place among golf’s rising stars. As the dust settles on the Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open presented by Brandt, one thing is clear – John Pak is a name we’re going to be hearing a lot more in the future. Stay tuned, sports fans. The game is just getting started!