Collins and Pan Survive Tough Test at Tumble Creek

Cle Elum 11

Cheng-Tsung Pan hits a tee shot at Tumble Creek G.C. during U.S. Open sectional qualifying on June 3 in Cle Elum, Wash. (USGA/Steve Gibbons)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

By Tom Cade


CLE ELUM, Wash. – Wil Collins, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Cheng-Tsung Pan, of Sammamish, Wash., survived a difficult day at the sectional qualifier at Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum, Wash., to earn the two available spots into the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club. Collins earned medalist honors with rounds of 70-68 for a score of 2-under 138, while Pan finished a shot back.

Collins, 34, who currently has exempt status on the Canadian Tour, had five birdies in the afternoon.

“This course couldn’t have been better prep for the U.S. Open,” he said. “You can hit two great shots on a hole and still end up with a bogey. It was a grind.”

Although Collins bogeyed the uphill 485-yard par-4 18th hole, his 36th hole of the day, his score could have been worse.

“But that’s probably the hole I’m most proud of,” he said. “I pulled it out, hitting probably the two best putts of my life after missing the green.”

Collins arrived at Tumble Creek three days before the qualifier, working with his long-time coach, Dave Walters.

“That was the best thing I did in preparing for this,” said Collins. “We found something.”

Walters has coached Collins for 22 years.

“I was working at Arrowhead Country Club [in Rapid City, N.D.], and in walks this 12-year-old towhead of a kid,” said Walters. “He introduces himself to me and tells me he wants to take lessons from me. Arrowhead is a private club, and Wil’s parents weren’t members. I thought this kid had a lot of gumption, so I gave him a chance. We’ve been like family ever since.”

At Tumble Creek, Walters walked all 36 holes with Collins, who earned the 2001 Ben Hogan Award as the top college player in the nation while at the University of New Mexico.

Since playing in the 2005 U.S. Open, Collins has garnered nine professional victories, most recently the Idaho Open and the Adams Pro Golf Tour SW Kansas Pro-Am in 2010.

Collins will play an event in Victoria, British Columbia, before traveling across the continent for next week’s U.S. Open, where he’ll be accompanied by his wife, Shelly.

“She’s a golfer as well, so she understands completely what it’s all about,” said Collins.

Pan, the phenom from Taiwan who just finished his sophomore year at the University of Washington, will also be making his second trip to the U.S. Open, having qualified in 2011. Currently No. 6 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Pan has played in five of the last six U.S. Amateurs, advancing to the quarterfinals last year.

Pan had been scheduled to play in the British Amateur, but will now compete in the U.S. Open instead. Pan’s teammate, Chris Williams, is exempt into the U.S. Open as the winner of the Mark McCormack Medal, awarded to the top-ranked amateur in the world, last year.

Playing in the final group of the day, Michael Gligic, of Burlington, Ontario, tied Pan at 1 under after a birdie on the par-5 14th. He bogeyed the par-3 17th, and, standing on the 18th tee, knew he needed a birdie to force a playoff with Pan.

Gligic hit two terrific shots on the immensely difficult hole to  20 feet. His birdie putt slid by, and he settled for the first alternate spot. The second alternate spot went to Nick Taylor, of Abbotsford, British Columbia, a former University of Washington standout who was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world during his senior year.

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