Identifying your greatest faults and fixing them is not a journey for the faint of heart.
Adam Hadwin achieved a life-long goal the day he qualified for the PGA Tour. All he’s done since then is turn his game inside out, turned weakness into strength, and turned into Canada’s best golfer.
“The biggest thing this year has been the attitude,” Hadwin said after completing a practice round at Erin Hills. “I just haven’t let things bother me as much as I have in the past. Missed shots, or missed putts, or whatever.”
In 10 seconds, Hadwin hit on everything that changed his golfing fortunes: Attitude and putting. The 2017 Valspar Championship winner is at Erin Hills playing in the U.S. Open on the strength of his world ranking. He entered the week at No. 49, with a reputation in golf circles as a great putter and all-around good guy.
But it wasn’t always like that.
“There’s not too many people that really liked him when he was 16 or 17 years old,” Hadwin’s dad Gerry said Tuesday over the phone from Ledgeview Golf Club in Abbotsford, B.C. “I don’t want to say he had a poor attitude but there were numerous times when, being in the golf industry for 38 years, I said, ‘You know what, buddy? I’m not sure golf is going to be your sport. Because you can’t go hit somebody or something, you know.’”
We have a habit of trying to smooth out the rough edges of our sporting heroes, especially if they’re Canadian. It’s a long-standing tradition of conflating the athlete and the man. In some cases, we do it to avoid the disappointment of being let down by our idols. And sometimes it’s a shame, because it robs us of a more interesting, richer human story.
“Some of those intangibles off the golf course have helped, obviously,” Adam Hadwin said. “My personal life has been very good recently. Getting married, I really think that coming into this year, starting back in the fall, everything’s just kind of been, I wouldn’t say in the zone, but it’s just go out and do my business. Enjoy it, have a good attitude.”
Gerry also credits Adam’s marriage and relationship with Jessica for his son’s newfound peace. He says his daughter-in-law is a laid-back person who will point out when her husband is bad-tempered on the course.
“She doesn’t know a lot about golf, but she knows a lot about attitude,” Gerry said. “He’s come a long way.”
Hadwin’s two greatest weaknesses intersect in his father’s basement. The elder Hadwin estimates he still houses at least 15 bent and battered putters left for dead by his son over the years. Gerry, who is director of golf at Ledgeview, used to shudder when watching his son over short putts. The strength of Adam’s game growing up was always tee-to-green.
“I can remember my last instructor, when I was a teen and hitting 16, 17 greens, but shooting two or three over par,” Adam said. “It was nothing for me to do that. I remember having a conversation with him, and he said, ‘Look, I’d love to coach you, I think you’ve got tremendous talent, but if you don’t work on your putting and you don’t get better I can’t help you anymore, because you’re not getting any better.’ It was a bit of a wake-up call. Took me probably seven years after that to really figure it out.”
With all the focus in recent years on his putting and short game, Hadwin’s ball-striking fell off a touch, but the 29-year-old seems more than happy with the trade-off. This year, the ball-striking is nearly back to where it once was and Hadwin is a more complete golfer than ever. He ranks 11th on the official PGA Tour money list with nearly $2.8 million, and he’s ninth in the FedExCup standings.
Despite a disappointing missed cut at Memorial at the beginning of the month, Hadwin feels his game is in good shape. Nothing is more important than putting at the U.S. Open and Erin Hills’ large, undulated greens will put extreme pressure on lag putting, which has been a strength during his hot streak.
This weekend, when you see Hadwin playing at the year’s second major, think about what you would do if you reached your life’s goal. Would you put it on cruise control? Or would you take an honest look at yourself then turn your weaknesses into strengths?
“He’s a competitor and a true Canadian for sure,” added his dad. “They’ve got guts, you know what I mean?”
Winning changes everything. This is especially true on the PGA Tour where a victory gives you a two-year exemption and can take the pressure off of a player trying to survive on the world’s best golf tour.
Adam Hadwin is playing in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills this week and talked to Postmedia about how his life has changed since winning the Valspar Championship in March.
“I think you have to reevaluate things,” Hadwin said. “Securing a job for the next year was taken care of pretty quickly. I’ve got a job now for two more years, anyway. President’s Cup snuck in there. Tour Championship becomes a legitimate reality. Not to say that I didn’t think that I could make the Tour Championship, but certainly playing well early puts it more into the forefront.”
The first three months of 2017 saw Hadwin earn a win and two other top 10s, including a sixth at the prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational. But winning on tour also raised expectations, especially his own.
“Only these last three, four weeks is when I felt the game’s gotten a little bit harder, but I think more than anything just probably adding a little pressure to myself,” Hadwin said. “Which is understandable, coming off of playing so well. Just trying to get back to the basics, and trying to get back to the attitude and the way I felt going into events before the win.” Hadwin’s U.S. Open will begin at 10:47 a.m. local time on Thursday, alongside Emiliano Grillo and Cheng-Tsung Pan.