JUNO BEACH, Fla. – For Mother’s Day, John Pak usually gifts his mom, Michelle, flowers and cards. On Sunday at Seminole Golf Club, he got her the best present yet: A Walker Cup.
“This was the best Mother’s Day,” Michelle Pak said as she watched her son celebrate with his teammates.
Michelle and her husband, Kenny, have seen their son, a decorated senior at Florida State, win a few matches and tournaments over the years. But until this weekend, the entire Pak family, which also includes John’s four older siblings, had never watched the youngest Pak kid play a single shot.
So, Kenny and Michelle and their eldest four kids – Brian, 31, who owns a café in Jersey City; Steve, 29, who works in tech in New York City; David, 27, who just started a new job; and Diana, 23, a freelance graphic designer – made the trek down to South Florida from the New York Metropolitan to watch John compete in his second Walker Cup.
“Since I moved to Florida State, I don’t get to see them that often,” said John, who last saw his entire family at Christmas. “For them to come out and support me at one of the coolest events in amateur golf, it means so much to me. I love my family and they love me, and they’ve always supported me, so for them to physically be here has been an awesome moment.”
While John didn’t secure a point, going 0-3 while dealing with the ill effects of a stomach virus, he didn’t let it ruin the occasion. Still not 100 percent, John fought through the discomfort, in part because he wanted his family to see him play.
“He’s definitely not someone to make excuses,” Steve said.
Even after a disastrous finish on No. 18 in which he let England's Joe Long win the match with a closing double bogey, John walked off the 18th green and gave Michelle a huge hug. Florida State head coach Trey Jones said John talks to his mom every day and is an “amazing family person.”
“You can tell how close they are,” Jones said. “When John’s brother [Brian] got married, it was a really big deal for John.”
Added Steve: “Weddings are a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but this is definitely up there, right below it.”
When John was a sophomore in high school, he and Kenny moved from the family’s home in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, to Orlando, Florida, so that John could refine his game in better year-round weather. He switched to home-schooling, too. That move obviously has paid off, as Pak is in great position to earn a Korn Ferry Tour card via PGA Tour University when he turns pro this summer.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Kenny, who raced off toward the hospitality tents after Pak’s singles loss on Sunday. The rest of the family, laughing at Dad’s strut, stayed back for a family photo (minus one, of course).
But later at the trophy presentation, they shared another special moment together.
“Golf has been his whole life,” Steve said. “The way that we connect with one another and bond with one another is through golf and just being able to support him in his career. That’s how we show our love to him.”
And John returned that love with a shiny piece of silver.