Pan Takes Medalist Honors at U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Tumble Creek

Cheng-Tsung Pan of Bellevue, Wash. shot rounds of 69-69 to earn medalist honors in today’s U.S. Open sectional qualifier held at Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum, Wash.

US Open Sectional Qual
Cheng-Tsung Pan tees off in Monday’s U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier at Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum, WA

His 2-under par finish over 36 holes on the par-70 layout was one shot better than Troy Kelly of Lakewood, Wash. and Richard Lee of Scottsdale, Ariz.

This qualifier was conducted by the Washington State Golf Association (WSGA), the statewide representative of the United States Golf Association (USGA).

Pan, Kelly and Lee all advance to play in the 2015 U.S. Open, to be held June 18-21 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.

All three qualifiers are former players of the University of Washington men’s golf team. Pan, a native of Taipei, Taiwan, just graduated this spring, while Kelly graduated in 2003 and Lee in 2010.

This is the third U.S. Open that Pan has qualified for, having played in the championship in 2011 and 2013, when he also qualified at Tumble Creek.

Under sunny, warm and windy conditions, Pan continued to make the shots when it counted most. In the morning round, he aced the 227-yard par-3 seventh hole, his 16th hole of the morning round. In the afternoon round, he birdied three of the last four holes to take the medalist honors, with his final birdie coming on the tough 485-yard par-4 18th, where from 149 yards out he put his second shot to three feet and sank the putt, which put him at the top of the leaderboard. He sank a 15-footer for birdie on 15, then chipped in from 25 feet on the par-4 16th.

When asked if this U.S. Open means more to him than the previous two he’s played in, Pan said, “Yes, this means more to me. I’m now playing as a professional, so there was more at stake. I love this course, and having qualified here before (in 2013), I feel really good here. I felt like I had some magic today.”

Pan, a former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, was also the medalist at the U.S. Open local qualifier, held at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash. on May 11. He then finished runner-up at the NCAA Division I Championship the following week, after which he turned professional.

Kelly is a native of the area, living just a few blocks from Chamber Bay. He cut his teeth on a number of mini tours before qualifying for the PGA Tour in 2009. He was a Washington Junior Golf Association state champion by the age of 11, and won more than 40 tournaments during his junior golf career. “I think (the U.S. Open) is going to be fun, just having everyone rooting for the local guys,” Kelly said.

For Lee, today’s two rounds were his first competitive rounds since September 2014. He injured the thumb on his left hand, and has been on a medical exemption from the PGA Tour. “I’m not a hundred percent yet,” he said afterward. “I wanted to play today just to see where my game is at. I didn’t hit it great today, but was able to score well.”

Lee, who grew up outside of Seattle, went on to say what a great experience it is to have three University of Washington players make it in through this qualifier. “Tumble Creek has been such a great supporter of the school’s program,” he said, “and to have the three of us make it in front of a hometown crowd is really special.”

Lee won the 2008 Washington State Amateur.

Tumble Creek, designed by Tom Doak and opened in 2005, played as a par 70 (36-34) for this qualifier. The 15th hole, normally played as a 515-yard par-5 for members, was shortened to 485 yards and played as a par-4. “There’s a short par-5 on the front nine (No. 8, playing at 506 yards), and we didn’t want to have a par-4 longer than a par-5, so we shortened 15,” said Scotty Crouthamel, WSGA Sr. Director of Rules and Competition, who was in charge of course set-up at Tumble Creek.

Tumble Creek has previously hosted U.S. Open sectional qualifying in 2009 and 2013.

The 2015 U.S. Open will have a field of 156 competitors, 74 of which are exempt from qualifying. Sixteen players recently qualified through two international sectional qualifying locations in Japan and England on May 25, and the remainder of the field will come from the 10 sectional qualifying locations that were held around the U.S. on June 8.

The USGA accepted 9,882 entries for this year’s U.S. Open, the most entries ever accepted for a U.S. Open held on the West Coast, and second most overall, just behind last year’s record number of 10,127 entries. To be eligible, players may be either a professional, or an amateur with a handicap index of 1.4 or less.