At one time or another, they all had strong ties to high-level golf in the Puget Sound area.
Nick Taylor, Joel Dahmen and Cheng-Tsung Pan were never all teammates at once, but at some point all three were on the University of Washington men’s golf team. Andrew Putnam still lives in University Place, where he and his brother, Michael, came up as part of a strong contingent of golfers hailing from the south end.
All four have established themselves as successful PGA Tour players and had high hopes for this season until it came to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. The PGA Tour shut down March 12 during The Players Championship.
Since then all four have lived a life similar to most — at home, binge-watching TV shows and relishing time with their families.
“That’s kind of a silver lining for me,” Taylor said from his home in Abbotsford, British Columbia. “Having our son last October, I’ve only been gone for maybe two or three weeks of all the six months. You don’t feel like you’re missing anything (now). … So I’m grateful for that part for our little family.”
Putnam, who has spent most of the break in University Place, has gotten to spend extra time with his 1-year-old daughter Pepper and wife Tawny, who is expecting their second child.
Now living in the suburbs of Houston, Pan and his wife Yingchun Lin have used the time away to set up a foundation. The goal of the CT Pan Foundation is to find opportunities for international youth golfers, many from Pan’s native Taiwan, to attend a U.S. college. Pan also is setting up a college scholarship program through the foundation.
“I hope to have that up and running by next summer,” he said.
Dahmen, who lives in the Phoenix area with his wife, initially didn’t mind the shelter-in-place order and social-distancing guidelines, maintaining his sense of humor through it all.
“I joked earlier with somebody else that I’m a top 100 in the world golfer, but I’m probably top 50 in the world at quarantining,” he said. “I can sit on the couch do nothing with nobody. I’m good at doing nothing.”
But the time away hasn’t all been easy. The second week in April, when the Masters was scheduled, felt forlorn.
Taylor recorded his second tour win in February at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He earned an invitation to participate in the Masters, where he would join Pan and Putnam to play in golf’s most hallowed tournament for the first time.
“I was so looking forward to that week,” Taylor said. “It was going to be the first time on the grounds for that tournament. And that’s kind of the one tournament you dream about when you are a kid playing.”
Putnam had planned to bring all of his family to Augusta National for the Masters. Instead, he spent the week watching highlights of old tournaments.
“Depressing,” he said with a laugh. “ … The par 3 contest with my wife and daughter, and I was going to have my 9-year-old nephew be my caddie.”
The tournament has been rescheduled to Nov. 12-15. They won’t miss it.
“That’s my birthday week,” Pan said. “It’s my first Masters, and it’s going to be my birthday. I will be throwing a party there, and that will be quite an experience.”
With the PGA Tour set to resume its season June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, all four are preparing for a return to their professional lives.
“We just got like a 35-page thing the other day from the tour going over all of it,” Dahmen said. “There are a lot of precautions.”
Pan, Putnam and Dahmen are planning to play in the first three tournaments.
In March Pan garnered headlines when he withdrew from the The Players Championship before his first round, citing coronavirus concerns, tweeting: “I’m probably the only one who is not playing, Same number as the hand sanitizers in the clubhouse, locker and dining.”
He deleted that tweet and issued a statement, which said: “I chose to withdraw from The Players Championship because my wife and I want to protect ourselves from the risk of exposure to the Coronavirus. We are fine and our families are fine. Our lifestyle is like a circus, traveling from one place to another. We believe this is a time to exercise caution by not playing this week.”
Pan faced early criticism from fellow pros. But the tournament was canceled that evening.
“On the tour, most people thought I was overreacting,” he said. “Players didn’t see it as an issue. My wife and I were following the coronavirus updates since the end of January because our families are back home in Taiwan, where it’s only 80 miles away from China. And we were supposed to be the first hit.
“Luckily, they are still doing good so far. You know when you have two or three months knowledge about these virus and you know how severe it is and how seriously it can hurt people. That’s why we decided to take a more cautious approach to protect ourselves. And I understood that most people would not understand, they just didn’t know anything about this virus. And even now we don’t know much about this virus, honestly.”
Despite the uncertainty, he plans to be in Fort Worth for that first tournament.
“For sure I have concerns,” he said “But I will definitely go and check it out just to make sure that they are doing the right things if I play. My plan is to go there and then play. And hopefully by that time, we will have more advanced tests.”
For all four golfers, this extended layoff from playing in tournaments, practice rounds or hitting off the range is different. Golf courses only recently opened up in Washington, so Putnam had only hit balls off a mat into a net on a few occasions.
“Six-and-a-half weeks with out playing? I’ve never had this in my life,” said Putnam, who’s now in Arizona playing rounds to prepare.
In Houston, the regulations weren’t as strict. Pan has been playing on weekdays.
Dahmen admitted he couldn’t replicate the intensity of competition in rounds with friends, but he played in the Scottsdale Open, which wrapped up Thursday. After shooting 65-63 in the first two rounds he faded with a final-round 71 to finish tied for eighth.
“Standing over a golf shot that kind of matters is a little different after nine weeks off, that’s for sure,” he said before Wednesday’s second round. “I love competition. … But I was definitely a little tentative out there to start with for sure.”
As for the lack of fans in the gallery, when play resumes, all four joked about rarely having fans in their galleries most days.
“But I just can’t imagine having a putt to win a golf tournament and there’s like five people clapping for you,” Dahmen said. ” … You are going to have to make your own energy.”
But golf’s return should bring back energy for them and fans.
“I just can’t wait to get to be back,” Pan said. “I think everyone wants it. There’ll be some normalcy of being back, if that’s possible.”