John Pak a cut above despite missing weekend at Travelers

CROMWELL, Conn. — John Pak will have better days than the one he had Friday at the Travelers Championship.

Probably a lot of them.

So, too, will his parents, Kwang and Michelle, who nervously watched their son battle in his attempt to make the cut for the first time in his young professional career.

Life has been moving fast for Pak, a 22-year-old from Scotch Plains, N.J., who recently turned pro and is chasing the dream he has had since he was a youngster swinging sawed-off clubs in the yard.

Pak didn’t make the cut, fighting his swing on a 3-over-par back nine and shooting a 2-over 72 to finish at even-par, two shots shy of the 2-under cut line.

Most painful was the fact that Pak was in terrific position to make the cut, making the turn at 3-under. But bogeys on Nos. 12 and 14 left him chasing the number. His three-putt bogey on 18 was more a product of the air being sucked from his sails when his 33-foot birdie attempt slid past the hole to the left.

A birdie would have earned him a Saturday tee time and then another one on Sunday.

It was an afternoon of angst for Pak. But it was even harder on his parents, particularly his father, who was living and dying with every shot.

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John Pak
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“Do you have kids?’’ Kwang Pak asked during an interview with The Post while his son happened to be in the midst of his bogey run.

“I’m very tired,’’ the father said more than once as he watched, paced and held his breath with each shot.

“I can hear the emotion when I make a putt and he screams,’’ John Pak said of his father. “It’s great to have my family out here. They’re my biggest supporters. I wish I could have given them a little more to cheer for today.’’

He very likely will, based on his talent and collegiate pedigree.

The past couple of months have been a lot easier for Pak. He swept the collegiate 2021 golf awards, winning the Ben Hogan Award, the Jack Nicklaus Award and the Haskins Award after capping a marvelous four-year career at Florida State.

“I’m so proud of him for going to college for four years,’’ Kwang Pak said.

John is the youngest of five kids, after Brian, the oldest, who was with their parents Friday, then Steve, David and Diana.

All of the boys played golf after their father sent them to golf camp to see if they liked it.

The coolest part of Pak’s backstory is the fact his father doesn’t even play golf, yet he unwittingly got his sons into the game.

“If I play, I shoot 120,’’ Kwang Pak said with a laugh.

“My dad always liked to make us do things,’’ Brian Pak said. “One year it was tae kwon do, another year it was swimming lessons, another year it was golf … and golf definitely stuck.’’

Brian recalled John being “very competitive’’ at golf at a young age “and you could tell he had a lot more talent than we had.

“John got really good really fast and at one point he wasn’t playing around anymore, he was trying to make it.’’

Still, Brian said, no one could have imagined this.

“This was the goal in the end, but now that he’s here it’s kind of crazy,’’ he said. “We’re all very proud of him.’’

John Pak is composed, mature, polite and polished. He appears to have all the right things going for him to succeed. And Friday will forever be a learning experience he’ll look back on.

He missed the cut two weeks ago in the Palmetto Championship at Congaree, his first professional tournament, shooting 79-71.

“It’s been a little overwhelming, to be honest,’’ Pak said of the whirlwind couple of months since college ended. “I like to practice a lot and I haven’t really had time to practice much on my game.’’

He said he didn’t prep well for Congaree “and that’s why I didn’t play well.’’

After shooting a 2-under 68 in the Travelers first round, he said he felt “way more confident this week than I did last week.’’

But on that back nine Friday, he lost his swing for a few holes, hitting everything to the right from Nos. 12 through 14, and it cost him.

“It just wasn’t there,’’ he said. “I hit a couple bad shots on the back nine, kept missing it right. I think I know what the issue is, but it’s hard to get comfortable when you’re under pressure. You try to fix it and it gets in your head a little bit.’’

John was quick to credit his father, who owned a grocery store in Scotch Plains, for shaping his passion.

“My dad was big into work ethic,’’ John said. “He worked a lot of long hours and he helped me learn that if you want to go out there and get it you’ve got to work hard. He instilled in me that I’ve got to keep working hard. That’s the only way you can beat these guys out here.’’

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