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No history at Hidden Hills doesn’t bother Ban

CONTACT: Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR
904-525-5538 /  [email protected]

STORY BY: Chris Cox, PGA TOUR Staff

September 23, 2020

Shintaro Ban carded 9 birdies for an opening 8-under 63 despite being unable to play a practice round prior to his fourth LOCALiQ Series start. (PGA TOUR)

JACKSONVILLE, Florida—Shintaro Ban gave his brother’s yardage book a once-over and called it a night. Any other preparation for the Jacksonville Championship would have to wait.

Not that he would need it. Ban, despite not receiving his first real look at Hidden Hills Golf Club until an hour before his opening tee time, went on to fire an opening, 8-under 63 Wednesday to claim a share of the first-round lead alongside Carson Young.

So much for rest and preparation for the fifth LOCALiQ Series tournament.

“I tried to Monday-qualify into the Korn Ferry Tour event in Wichita, but my first flight here had a problem, so I didn’t get here until 9:30 p.m. (Tuesday),” Ban recalled. “We looked at my brother Shotaro’s yardages and talked through it.”

Ban wasted little time in becoming familiar with Hidden Hills, opening with a birdie at the par-4 10th hole before adding two more, at Nos. 14 and 16. He made the turn at 4-under with one final birdie at the 18th, when his approach shot settled inside 10 feet.

“Today really clicked. It was really nice,” he said. “I played the par-3s really well, which was a big bonus. I was 3-under on those. I had the same club every hole, just a 7-iron the whole time. It’s like, ‘OK, I’ve hit this club plenty of times. Just figure out what you need to do, where to land it, and we’ll be on our way.’”

It was much of the same on his second nine, where Ban closed with four birdies over his final five holes, including at the last when he muscled his shot from the fairway inside two feet.

“A handful of five- to 10-footers, and the majority of the time I knocked it in, so putting was good today,” he said of his work on the greens.

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Though he missed the cut in each of his first three LOCALiQ Series tournament starts, Ban still feels plenty encouraged about the state of his game. The former UNLV star endured a bumpy 2019-20 rookie season on Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, finishing No. 123 on the Order of Merit. He regained his card at the Qualifying Tournament in March, but then had no place to play when issues surrounding COVID-19 forced officials to cancel the Mackenzie Tour season. Two weeks ago, Ban earned entry into the PGA TOUR’s season-opening Safeway Open via Monday qualifying, shooting a 61 to capture medalist honors.

In the tournament itself at Silverado Country Club in Napa, California, Ban shot 70-71 to finish at 3-under but missed the cut by two shots.

“It was a great experience last year on Mackenzie Tour, but I think I rushed it,” he said. “I really just wanted to put myself out there. I took the process in the wrong way.

“A lot of times I felt like my really good rounds were caused by heroic shots,” he continued. “In college I played well and was an All-American, and usually the times I played well was because of really good shots. But when you come to any professional event, all these guys know what they’re doing. It became like I was the outlier just because I was a rookie.”

His perspective changed a few weeks ago in Napa, where Stewart Cink would go on to break an 11-year winless drought.

Ban realized that even the worst shots from his TOUR colleagues were still usually missing in the right places. Getting to that point himself is the obvious next step in Ban’s development.

“There were a lot of times where I thought I could nuke it, but I know my mistake is when I try to hit one hard or hero one,” he said of ill-advised or risky shots. “It can be good, but the odds of that being good aren’t as high. I’m not saying I’m playing super conservative, but it’s about putting it right there. That’s all you need.”