COVID-19 hasn’t kept record-setting golfer Chris Tanabe ’21 from working on his game.
Photo: Marc Hagemeier
Par for the Course
by Andrew Faught

There’s nothing like a pandemic to disrupt a record- setting amateur golf career. Chris Tanabe ’21 can attest to that.

Tanabe was building his reputation as an elite collegiate golfer when the COVID-19 outbreak in March forced the cancellation of Bucknell’s season. In February at the Loyola Invitational in Arizona, Tanabe helped the Bison break the team 54-hole scoring record with an 858 (six below par). At the Dartmouth Invitational, he finished with a school-record nine-under 133 for 36 holes.

The team was practicing during spring break in West Palm Beach, Fla., when they learned the season — after just two tournaments — was over.

“I definitely was playing some of the best golf in my entire life, but it is what it is,” Tanabe says. “I completely understand, and canceling was the right thing to do, without a doubt.”

At the time, his full-season average was an enviable 72 — roughly half a stroke to a stroke over par, per round. Tanabe, a plus-4 handicap, attributes his golfing success to a facet of the game that few have mastered: putting.

“I’m definitely not one of the longest hitters, so I like to make up for it around the green,” he says. “Some of the tournaments I’ve won, I was banking on my putter. I made a lot of putts, and it just catapults you to a good round.”

He practices what is known as Aim Point putting, using his feet to determine the slope of a green, and his arm and fingers to decide where to aim the shot. Depending on his eyes alone to read the course, Tanabe says, can be deceiving. “Relying on my feet gives me something to fall back on and trust,” he says.

The youngest of four boys, Tanabe got an early start on the game. At 2, his dad gave him a U.S. Kids Golf club, with which he’d practice driving an orange whiffle ball.

In his short career, Tanabe has notched some important victories. Notably, he won the Pennsylvania Amateur Championship in 2019, posting a five-under-par 205 over 54 holes. What made the feat even more impressive is that Tanabe hadn’t touched a club in a month before the competition because he was studying abroad in Spain.

While he has played on famous courses, including Florida’s Streamsong and The Ocean Course in South Carolina, Tanabe hopes to someday test his skills at one of the world’s most iconic courses — the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, home of the Masters Golf Tournament.

And while he’s considering a career in business or finance, Tanabe doesn’t rule out professional golf. The game keeps him coming back for a simple reason. It is perhaps the most elusive goal of all: “You’re never perfect in golf.”

Instant Replay
Greatest career highlight
Shooting a 28 on the front nine of the difficult Aronimink Golf Club in the Pennsylvania State Amateur Championship.
Staying Sharp in a Pandemic
“Time away from golf allows me to set new goals and assess where I would like to be in the months to come.”
Finding Motivation
“I still feel as though I have yet to make a name for myself in the amateur golf community, so I always compete with a chip on my shoulder.”
Lesson Learned on the Links that Spills Into the Classroom
“I am never on my own. If I ever need help, I can always reach out to a teammate or peer and, similarly, to a coach or a professor.”