One day, Adam Hadwin will look back at those magical days in 2011 when he captured the imagination of his home country by offering a glimmer of hope that he would become the first Canadian since 1954 to win his national championship.
He didn’t do it, but he did tie for fourth at the RBC Canadian Open at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. A couple of months later, he posted a T7 at another PGA Tour event, the Frys.com Open, for some fine experiences to put into the memory bank.
“In 2011 and some of the things that I did, including the Canadian Open and U.S. Open, that year was pretty special,” said Hadwin, who did something pretty special again on Sunday when he won his first WebDotCom Tour event at the Chile Classic.
However, Hadwin has learned that he can’t dwell on the past when it’s the future that’s so important at this point in his career, even as he sits atop the tour money list.
Hadwin has always had a distinctive swagger, yet his accommodating nature only suggested cockiness instead of overconfidence, but he admits that he may have crossed the line at some point after his early success on the PGA Tour.
There was work to be done, however, before he began playing regularly at that level. In his first year of playing on the tour’s main development ground in 2012, Hadwin posted four top-10 finishes to finish 30th on the money list.
A birdie by James Hahn on the 72nd hole of the WebDotCom Tour Championship left Hadwin in a tie for third in that event when it appeared certain he would tie for second and finish 25th on the money list, which would have earned him his ticket to the PGA Tour.
One birdie on the final hole of the season had been the difference and while that was a tough break, Hadwin still seemed destined for the PGA Tour, where he had done so well the year before.
“To come so close in 2012 to getting a PGA Tour card was a bit frustrating and knowing the season that I had before, knowing that I can compete out on the PGA Tour, sort of increased that frustration,” he said.
“I think last year in 2013, it sort of took over a little bit more,” said Hadwin, who fell to 74th on the money list in a season in which he made just 11 of 21 cuts and finished in the top 10 twice.
“I grew increasingly frustrated as the year when on when I wasn’t playing good golf. I was easily agitated if things weren’t going my way,” said Hadwin.
Expectations turned into the reality that a player can’t underestimate the calibre of play on the road to the PGA Tour despite previous accomplishments that might indicate to him that he should already be there. Hadwin apparently made that mistake.
“I think that’s a fair statement to make,” he said.
“I sort of thought in my own mind, I could just sort of come out, continue to do the same that I was doing and I would have my PGA Tour card, no problem,” said Hadwin, who discovered it was time to lose that attitude.
“I really set out at the beginning of this year to change my attitude about what was happening and not to expect to be there and not expect to have a PGA Tour card,” he said. “Instead of feeling like I should be there, it’s like I’ve got to go out and I’ve got to earn it. I’ve got to prove myself.
“I entered this year with a much better mindset to really approach each individual tournament on its own and every hole on its own, just sort of play a much more relaxed game of golf and just give myself lots of opportunities and just sort of go with the flow and see what happens,” he said.
That new attitude was evident in Chile on Sunday, when he didn’t get his first birdie until the ninth hole. He bogeyed 10 and even though he was at even par at that point, he didn’t see anybody else threatening to run away with top spot.
Hadwin wasn’t panicking, knowing that pars wouldn’t hurt him. Timely birdies came on 13 and 14 and he knew if he could birdie 17 and 18, he could win no matter what happened
Something extraordinary did happen when Aussie Alistair Presnall recorded his third eagle of the day on the 18th hole, but no matter. Hadwin did what he needed to do and birdied the final two holes to beat Presnell by one.
“It wasn’t my golf game last year that put me where I was. I’ve been a very good swinger of the golf club since I was born basically,” he said.
“It certainly was my goal this off-season to get into a better mental mindset coming into this year and to really be ready to play and be ready to handle any obstacle that was thrown my way throughout the year, whether it was a ball behind a tree or some travel interruption or whatever the case may be and just sort of go with it and accept it and just try and do my best,” he said.
With the 2014 season beginning with a tie for eighth in Colombia, the win in Chile has put Hadwin in an enviable position at the top of the money list for playing on the PGA Tour next season.
There’s a long season ahead, but Hadwin says his thoughts are more short term than that. It will be business as usual from the first two tournaments of the season and he will take nothing for granted.
“To be honest, I’m not even thinking or worried about money list position at this point,” he said.
“For me, seeing the results that I’ve gotten from the previous two weeks, about the attitude that I had approaching the event and sort of throughout the rounds and the days when maybe a few things didn’t go my way and how I was able to bounce back, I think that’s the attitude that I need to take,” said Hadwin.
“That’s the attitude that I’m going to try and take the rest of the year is that the money list is completely secondary,” he said.