College golf notebook: Florida State's John Pak makes history; Cowboys win without star

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Brentley Romine
·7 min read
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During the college golf season, GolfChannel.com will check in weekly to update what’s happening in the world of college golf.

Many great players have come through the Florida State men’s golf program over the years. No one has won more than John Pak.

The Seminoles senior captured the individual title Tuesday at the Calusa Cup in Naples, Florida, to tie the school all-time wins record. Pak’s eighth career victory equals the New Jersey native with former Florida State legend Nolan Henke, who played for the Seminoles in 1983-87.

“When I came to Florida State, I wanted to leave a mark here,” Pak told GolfChannel.com on Tuesday. “I want to be known as one of the best to ever play at Florida State, alongside Brooks Koepka and other guys. I’ve always set [breaking the school wins record] as one of my individual goals. I have these last three events circled on my calendar to get at least one more win.”

Florida State’s next event is the ACC Championship later this month, followed by regionals and potentially the NCAA Championship. While he’s been one of the top players in college golf for each of the past three seasons, Pak has yet to compete at nationals. Florida State finished sixth at regionals in both Pak’s freshman and sophomore seasons, and last year’s postseason was canceled because of the pandemic.

This last chance for Pak seems to be as good as ever. Pak, with his six top-10s in seven starts, is arguably the frontrunner right now for the Haskins Award, given to the men’s player of the year, and he’s ranked No. 1 by Golfstat. He is coming off earning low amateur honors last fall at the U.S. Open. He also starred for the U.S. Walker Cup team two years ago at Royal Liverpool, going 3-0, and will play a second Cup next month at Seminole, where his whole family – parents and four older siblings – will watch him for the first time as a group.

They’ll see a player who entered college as an AJGA All-American and has still vastly improved, especially with his wedges. Pak, who is ranked No. 1 in the PGA Tour University rankings, said he arrived on campus not knowing how to properly flight his shots from around 100 yards and in. Now, with help from Seminoles head coach Trey Jones, he can hit all four wedges 100 yards, with different trajectories and shapes.

“One thing Coach Jones always loves to talk about is how bad of a wedge player I was when I got here and then how much I’ve improved and how great a wedge player I am now,” Pak said.

Add that to his stellar precision game tee to green and it’s no wonder Pak is one of the most dominant amateurs out there. In Tuesday’s final round in Naples, Pak shot 5-under 67 with none of his six birdie putts coming from outside of 6 feet.

“He’s like a really good 3-point shooter in the NBA, like a J.J. Redick or Steph Curry,” Jones said a while back. “When those guys get it going, it feels like they’re going to make every shot. John’s the same way. When he gets it dialed in, he’s one of those guys who can stick it to 4 feet again and again.”

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Florida State, meanwhile, is on the shortlist of national-title favorites, currently ranked second by Golfstat, just behind Oklahoma, which won the team title at Calusa Pines by eight shots over Georgia Tech. The Seminoles were third as freshman Brett Roberts added a T-5 finish, his fifth showing off T-11 or better this season. Roberts and fellow newcomer Frederik Kjettrup, who nearly won the Valspar Collegiate last month before tying for second, have boosted the profile of this year. So, too, has transfer Connor Futrell. But no addition has meant more to Florida State than transfer Vincent Norrman, who arrived in Tallahassee this season from Georgia Southwestern, where he was the top-ranked player in Division II last year.

Norrman has cooled off of late, but he started the spring with three finishes of T-7 or better, including a win, in his first four starts for the Seminoles.

“Having a guy like Vincent around, he’s one of the best ball-strikers I know,” Pak said, “and he just pushes me and everyone else on the team to be better.”

And it’s showing. Pak’s performance this spring has been spectacular. And he’s likely not done yet.

Sorry, Mr. Henke.

OSU
OSU

Without Eckroat, Cowboys win second straight

No Austin Eckroat, no problem.

Oklahoma State was without its senior standout last weekend at the Augusta Haskins Award Invitational, yet the Cowboys rallied from nine shots back entering the final round to clip Pepperdine by two shots Sunday at Forest Hills. It was Oklahoma State’s third win of the season and second straight this spring.

Sophomore Eugenio Chacarra, a Wake Forest transfer, notched his fourth top-3 finish of the season, placing solo third behind co-medalists Ryan Hall of South Carolina and Dylan Menante of Pepperdine (Hall won in a playoff). Sophomore Aman Gupta finished fourth, his third straight event inside the top 10. Freshman Jonas Baumgartner added a T-8 showing.

Eckroat, meanwhile, teed it up in the Valero Texas Open, missing the cut.

“It’s great for both sides,” Bratton said. “Coming into this year, Austin is obviously our leader – and he’s a great leader – and he can feel a lot of weight on his shoulders, feeling like he has to shoulder too much of the lead. So, for him to see our guys step up and be able to perform – they’ve already started to show him that through the year – but it’s more confidence for him to know those guys have his back. And then for those guys, it’s great for them to see that without their leader they were ready to step up and run down some good teams. Good all the way around.”

Bratton recalled past seasons in the last decade where top players such as Viktor Hovland and Peter Uihlein missed tournaments to make PGA Tour starts and the Cowboys managed to win those events, too.

“Maybe we should just leave our best player at home,” Bratton joked. “But no chance, we’re a better team with Austin in the lineup and we’re thankful we’ll have him back next week in Arizona.”

For more on Oklahoma State’s win and from Bratton, check out the latest episode of College Golf Talk.

PGA Tour U update

Pak may still have a comfortable lead and the top 10 may not have changed in the latest PGA Tour University rankings, but there is a new arrival in the top 15.

North Carolina State senior Ben Shipp, fresh off two straight victories, has rocketed to No. 15, improving 16 spots since the start of his winning streak.

While Eckroat and SMU’s Mac Meissner missed the cut last Friday at the Valero Texas Open, they could still get enough points to make upward moves. Texas Tech’s Sandy Scott remains out with a wrist injury, though he did make the GB&I Walker Cup team, so he appears on the verge of returning.

Here’s the current top 15:

  • 1. John Pak, Florida State . . . 1305.69

  • 2. Garett Reband, Oklahoma . . . 1152.04

  • 3. Davis Thompson, Georgia . . . 1135.80

  • 4. Chun An Yu, Arizona State . . . 1128.53

  • 5. Austin Eckroat, Oklahoma State . . . 1120.29

  • 6. Sandy Scott, Texas Tech . . . 1113.62

  • 7. Noah Goodwin, SMU . . . 1071.55

  • 8. McClure Meissner, SMU . . . 1064.14

  • 9. Trevor Werbylo, Arizona . . . 1035.81

  • 10. Quade Cummins, Oklahoma . . . 1015.84

  • 11. Michael Feagles, Illinois . . . 987.31

  • 12. Devon Bling, UCLA . . . 979.09

  • 13. Jovan Rebula, Auburn . . . 972.71

  • 14. Angus Flanagan, Minnesota . . . 967.68

  • 15. Benjamin Shipp, N.C. State . . . 957.06

For complete rankings, click here.