Meet Adam Hadwin, professional golfer and tour guide.
When the Web.com Tour begins its 2014 season later this week with a four-tournament swing through Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Panama, Hadwin will have fellow Abbotsford resident and tour rookie Nick Taylor riding shotgun with him.
Hadwin is happy to have the company and Taylor is delighted to have a buddy to help guide him through some unfamiliar territory.
“He has been down there before so it helps me a lot,” says Taylor. “He can kind of show me the ropes as far as the travel stuff.”
Taylor and Hadwin will room together during that South and Central American swing, which is nothing new. They have shared a place in Phoenix during the past couple of winters.
Hadwin, who is entering his third year on the Web.com Tour, was happy to see Taylor get through qualifying school this past December and earn a spot on tour. The two of them grew up playing Ledgeview Golf Course together, were junior golf rivals and became good friends.
“It has been clear that he has been ready to burst out of the Canadian Tour (now PGA Tour Canada) for a couple of years now,” Hadwin says of Taylor. “Now he gets a chance to prove himself at the next level. I have gotten to know him pretty well rooming with him for the last couple of years and he’s just a good guy. We get along really well and we are going to travel together for the first four events. I think he’ll have great success and it will be a lot of fun having him in the passenger seat to those first four events.”
Hadwin and Taylor will be two of four British Columbians in Colombia when the tour opener begins Thursday in Bogota.
Roger Sloan of Merritt is back for his second year after surviving Q school and Riley Wheeldon of Comox is exempt through the first four events after finishing second on the PGA Tour Canada money list in 2013.
Taylor, once ranked as the world’s No. 1 amateur, is anxious to test his game at the next level. He struggled at times, during his early years as a pro after graduating from the University of Washington, but Taylor appears to have his game in good order. He played splendidly at Q school to finish tied for 11th and is exempt through the first eight events.
“Obviously it has been frustrating at times, but I have tried to be patient,” Taylor says. “It was definitely gratifying to get my Web.com card, but it’s just one step and I hope I can take another one this year.”
So does Hadwin, who finished 74th last year on the Web.com Tour. That was good enough to make him fully exempt for 2014 and avoid a trip to Q school. It also made for a rather long off-season for Hadwiin, who used it in part to get better organized for the coming year.
He says his main goal this year is to be more professional in his approach. By that he means being better organized and having his team of support staff at his disposal more regularly.
For example, Hadwin and coach Brett Saunders will be seeing one another more often this year.
“The last two years I really only saw Brett when I had an emergency,” Hadwin says. “I’d call him up and go, ‘I can’t hit the golf ball, I don’t know what I am doing. I need you to come and see me.’ By that point it’s too late.
“Having a set schedule of when I am going to see him, basically, every two to three weeks or so regardless of where I am to make sure I get that one-on-one time with him will help keep me on track.”
Hadwin is hoping the changes help him become a more consistent player.
“It seemed last year if I played well, I played well. If I didn’t, then I missed the cut.”
That kind of describes Sloan’s rookie year on the Web.com Tour in 2013.
Sloan had two top-10 finishes last year, but missed 13 of 18 cuts and finished 99th on the money list with earnings of $54,613.
That meant a trip back to Q school to try and regain his status. Sloan finished that 108-hole pressure cooker in style, firing a nine-under 63 in the final round to move inside the top 45 and ties who earned exempt status to start the year.
“I had battled all year long on the Web.com and my first year out there was obviously a bit of a learning experience,” Sloan says. “I was continually working hard and felt like I was getting better as a player and for my last round of the year to be my best round of the year was a breath of fresh air and a sign that I am continuing to go in the right direction. That was extremely rewarding.”
Sloan says he feels more at ease heading into his second year on the Web.com Tour.
“Obviously there is a level of comfort now, a sense of belonging,” he says. “Not that I didn’t feel like I belonged, but it just reaffirms how much you belong being able to qualify for your second year out there.
“I have done a lot of work in the off-season based on a lot of things I learned last year. I tried to incorporate that in getting better here in the off-season. And I am really excited to get the year underway.”
The four British Columbians are part of a large Canadian contingent on tour this year. Ontario’s Mackenzie Hughes is fully exempt finishing first on the PGA Tour Canada money list last season and fellow Ontario residents Albin Choi and Cam Burke earned exempt status to start the year at Q school.
Justin Shin of Maple Ridge, Devin Carrey of Surrey and North Vancouver’s Eugene Wong have conditional status on tour.
“I don’t want to say it’s been a little lonely out there, but there hasn’t been a bunch of Canadian flags flying lately or last year,” Hadwin says. “I think you are really starting to see that we are starting to develop some good young players and now they are getting their opportunity to play.”