Alex Ritthamel reflects on first PGA Tour win as a caddie with C.T. Pan at Harbour Town

C.T. Pan, Alex Ritthamel
C.T. Pan’s win at the RBC Heritage on Sunday was the first of his PGA Tour career. It was also the first for his caddie, Alex Ritthamel. Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing like that first win on the PGA Tour. That goes for players and caddies.

On Sunday afternoon, Tawain’s C.T. Pan – a rising star – earned his first win by firing a final-round, 4-under 67 at Harbour Town to take home the RBC Heritage.

Veteran caddie Alex Ritthamel was on the bag… and it was his first win, too.

Ritthamel has bounced between the Web.com and PGA Tours since 2010, caddying for the likes of Andrew Landry, Matt Jones and Tommy Gainey before officially starting work for Pan in January.

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On Tuesday, The Caddie Network tracked down a proud Ritthamel, who was right back to work, mapping out TPC Louisiana ahead of this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where Pan is teaming up with Michael Kim.

So, what was Sunday’s win like?

“It was a surreal feeling,” Ritthamel said. “I’m a real competitive guy. Coming down the stretch the last five holes when we knew we were in the lead, it was a great feeling to have knowing that if we executed our game plan, we’d have a chance to walk away with the trophy. We stuck to the plan and it paid off.”

It didn’t come without a dicey moment, however. At the 15th hole, the 27-year-old Pan sent his tee shot well right into some trees. It could have been big trouble, but he got a friendly bounce left and back into play instead of right and out of bounds.

“I was yelling for that ball to bounce left, figuring if it stays in bounds, we can salvage something,” Ritthamel said. “We got the bounce, which was a break. We made bogey, but we stayed in the tournament. Funny as it sounds, it was a confidence boost that the ball stayed in play. We’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of bounces this year and one finally went our way when we needed it most.”

Ritthamel also found a bit of humor in that bogey since, “15 played as the easiest hole on the course Sunday.”

No worries, however.

Pan bounced right back on the 16th with a birdie, providing the moment Ritthamel says he’ll remember most from the week.

“Oh man, I’d say the birdie on 16 that we made after coming off a bogey on 15 was the best,” he said. “To be able to step up on 16… you’ve got to make a decision. Those were probably the three best shots we hit all day – a 3-wood, gap wedge and then the 10-foot putt. At that point, I knew if we went par-par we could win. The putts were clutch down the stretch.”

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Ritthamel also credited Pan’s wife, Michelle, for some advice to help her husband on the course.

“She just said to be the calming influence for him,” Ritthamel.

Michelle would know. She caddied for C.T. when he finished in a tie for second last August in the Wyndham Championship.

Pan has been rising nicely on the PGA Tour. He just missed the Tour Championship last season and Sunday’s win wasn’t as much a surprise as a logical next step. Ritthamel was delighted to be a part of that, bagging a win in just their 10th start as a team.

“I think it’s important that we got the win so early,” he said. “We were playing well, but putts just hadn’t been dropping. We had to get by with everything else. Last week, the putts were dropping. He’s been coming through the ranks and everyone knew there was potential there. I had been paired in his group a couple of times the past few years and saw the talent level there. When I got the opportunity, there was no indecision. You take the job and hope it works out. He’s been working hard, like you’re supposed to. The hard work paid off. I can’t wait to do it again.”

There wasn’t much of a celebration Sunday night, although Ritthamel did join Pan and a friend for dinner at a nice steakhouse in Hilton Head.

“He had an hour and half of media stuff,” Ritthamel said. “We went out for a nice dinner but didn’t talk a whole lot of golf. We were chatting about how good the food was. We just took some deep breathes and it was kind of quiet. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but everyone is saying ‘congratulations’ here in New Orleans. I’m back to work and want to win again.”

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