On the verge of the 113th U.S. Open, Adam Hadwin can vividly remember his first experience at golf’s second major of the season.
Hadwin, who hails from Abbotsford, teed up in the 2011 U.S. Open at the Congressional Country Club, in what was his first appearance at a major championship and just his second PGA Tour event of his professional career.
Then at the age of 23, he had to fight through the initial trepidation of playing alongside the world’s best golfers, on one of the sport’s grandest stages.
He went on to make the cut, finishing tied for 39th as a rookie at the event.
“I told my coach I was nervous hitting balls for the first time,” recalled the now 25-year-old Hadwin in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“I was afraid to chunk it for fear of what might be said behind me…but coming into this week is just a completely different feeling.
“I feel like I belong.”
Hadwin is scheduled to tee off in this year’s U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA., on Thursday.
He entered into the tournament by way of the sectional qualifier, at the Woodmont Country Club in Maryland.
Hadwin finished the qualifier in a three-way tie for first, with a two-round score of nine-under par. Of the 122 players in competition in Maryland, only eight earned a berth at the U.S. Open.
“It’s one of the true democratic events,” said Hadwin of the major.
It could also act as a boost for the remainder of the summer.
Hadwin came within five spots on the Web.com money list of earning his PGA Tour card last year, finishing with a total of $168,713.
But this year hasn’t followed along the same trajectory.
He’s missed four cuts in 10 events on the Web.com Tour, the PGA’s main feeder system, and hasn’t really been able to remain in contention for a win.
He sits 89th on the money list, with the top 25 earning their PGA Tour card.
“I’ve played a little bit better. It’s not like it’s been great. At this point, it’s kind of just been good enough to make cuts,” said Hadwin.
“Certainly haven’t competed for a title yet this year, haven’t really been close.
“A lot of that is due not to ball-striking, but to the short-game, to putting. It’s definitely come a long ways and gotten better every week.”
Merion is playing shorter compared to other U.S. Open courses in the past, at 6,996 total yards.
Hadwin got in a full practice round on Tuesday, but was limited to playing only three holes two days ago, as heavy rains have drenched the course.
“The course has taken a lot of water the last two or three days,” he said.
As is the case in most U.S. Opens, the margin for error is microscopic. The rough is “extremely penalizing” in Hadwin’s words, which puts added emphasis on hitting the fairways.
“I had some lies where all I could get on (the ball) was a wedge or a nine iron,” he said.
But despite his early season struggles on the Web.com Tour, and the challenges Merion presents, Hadwin seems enjoy the more pressurized environments.
After his showing at the 2011 U.S. Open, Hadwin found himself in contention at the RBC Canadian Open, held at the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver later that summer.
He finished tied for fourth, but his popularity with local fans skyrocketed as the weekend progressed, ending with an emotional standing ovation on the 18th green in the final round.
Two years later, he finds himself on an even bigger stage.
“I get to test where my game is at against the best in the world and see where I stack up,” he said.
“On a good day, I don’t think my game is that far off.”