When Adam Hadwin recalls that summer week in 2011 at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, the ovations come storming back.
The then-23-year-old pro turned in a storybook performance at the RBC Canadian Open in his hometown province, entering the final round one shot off the lead and ending up in a tie for fourth as fans chanted his name.
It was the biggest highlight of his career. He just didn’t want a PGA TOUR top-5 to become the biggest highlight of his career, period.
Last Sunday in Santiago, Chile, Hadwin rewrote his story with a maiden victory on the Web.com Tour. Winning the Chile Classic not only put him on the brink of a TOUR card – he leads the early-season money list by virtue of the win and a T8 at the season opener in Colombia – but lifts his status in the game.
“I remember saying that I didn’t want to be remembered for finishing fourth at the RBC Canadian Open one year,” Hadwin said Sunday night from Chile. “This goes a long way to changing what people are going to say.”
He hopes that people will soon be able to say he’s one of the more solid performers on the Web.com Tour. That wasn’t the case last year, when he finished 74th on the money list with only two top 10s.
Compared to his rookie season on the Tour, it was a big step back. In 2012, he had four top 10s including two thirds and was 30th in money with $168,713, less than $14,000 away from securing a PGA TOUR card.
But the culprit wasn’t a dead putter, loose swing or any physical ailment.
“I started to analyze last year how I played and how I approached events, and I wanted to take a different approach because obviously it wasn’t working,” Hadwin said.
His style was to, well, come out swinging. He has had confidence in his long game “since my junior golf days” and never hesitated to fire away. A couple times he could catch lightning – in midsummer 2013 he finished fifth and T7 in consecutive events, making half his money for the year – but in the long run that wasn’t sustainable. In both 2012 and 2013 his made cuts only outnumbered his missed cuts by one.
So he dialed it back.
“I haven’t had to do much (mechanically), it’s just more of a mindset,” Hadwin said. “How to approach different golf courses, when to be aggressive, when not to be. Maturing.”
Last week at the shortish Prince of Wales Country Club, he hit a lot of 4-irons off the tees and accepted 8- and 9-irons into greens instead of challenging doglegs and looking for short wedges.
Through 54 holes that proved the perfect recipe, with rounds of 67-69-67 giving Hadwin a one-shot lead over a trio of pursuers.
In the final round, Alistair Presnell provided the fireworks with a three-eagle round that gave him the clubhouse lead, but on the 17th tee Hadwin told his caddie that if they closed with two birdies, the title was in the bag.
“I don’t know how often that actually happens, but I’m very thankful it was today,” said Hadwin, the first Canadian-born winner on the Web.com Tour since Chris Baryla in 2009.
He’s onto something. Not just in winning, but merely starting a season with any kind of form. In 2012, he missed two consecutive cuts before a T47 in Chile. In 2013 he missed the cut in his first three starts.
Now he’s off to the Brasil Champions presented by HSBC as a champion, not just that guy who had the hot hand at home a couple years ago.
“It was a great moment in my life, but it’s in the past,” Hadwin said. “Hopefully I’ll be back this year at Royal Montreal, and bring this new mindset into the RBC Canadian Open.”