As he grinds it out on his day job — Midlands one week, Wichita the next, Newburgh, Ind., on the horizon — Adam Hadwin is becoming fully conversant with the concept of paying his dues.
If his glamorous travel schedule wasn’t enough, the 25-year-old touring pro from Abbotsford is also in the midst of a trying season on the Web.com tour. Last year, in his rookie campaign on the Tier-II circuit, he made just under $170,000 and was aced out of a permanent spot on the PGA Tour on the last hole in the last event of the season,
This year, however, Hadwin sits at No. 89 on the tour’s earning list with $22,800 — or, as Rory McIlroy refers to it, tip money.
“It’s been frustrating,” Hadwin admits. “I just haven’t played well enough.”
But, starting Thursday, he has a chance to change all that. Owing to a strong performance in the gruelling qualifying process, Hadwin has secured a spot in the U.S. Open at the storied Merion layout just outside Philadelphia.
True, he isn’t exactly one of the favourites. More to the point, few outside his immediate family are aware he’s in the field. But Hadwin is undeterred. He has a chip and a chair at the game’s biggest event, and that beats the hell out of what he’s been doing for the last five months.
Besides, he’s nothing if not confident, even if the source of that confidence is something of a mystery.
“A win,” Hadwin answered when asked what would constitute a successful week in Pennsylvania.
“I like to think I enter every event with a chance to win. We’ll just see what the course gives me and my game gives me. You just have to be aware that even-par will be a good score.”
And that’s not as easy as it sounds.
If they ever get around to finishing it, this week will mark the 113th staging of the Open and the fifth time it’s been held at Merion. In 1950, Ben Hogan drilled a one-iron to the 18th green on Sunday to gain a berth in a playoff, then won the showdown just 16 months after a near-fatal car crash. In 1971, Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff.
This time around, however, Merion may be remembered for different reasons.
Earlier in the week, the course was almost saturated by two days of torrential rains. The weather cleared long enough for a couple of practice rounds, but more rain is scheduled on Thursday with the possibility of lightning and/or hail and/or swarms of locusts.
The weather, moreover, is just one of the intrigues around the tournament. Merion is an eccentric old-timer which features five par-4’s under 400 yards, two over 500 yards, two par 3’s which measure 254 and 246 yards, and a third which is a paltry 115 yards.
The talk, in fact, before the tournament concerned the layout’s relative lack of length (it will play at just under 7,000 yards). With the soggy fairways, however, that’s no longer a consideration, and Hadwin said the course will fulfil the primary function of any major tournament.
“It will identify the best golfer,” he said. “You can’t fluke your way around. You have to golf your ball.”
Hadwin, meanwhile, punched his ticket to Merion by tying for first at his sectional qualifying in Rockville, Md., almost two weeks ago. Called the longest day in golf — largely because the other terms the pros use are unfit for print — qualifying consists of 36 holes played in a single day at a number of different sites.
The good news? Hadwin put together rounds of 65 and 67. The not so great news? It’s been the highlight of a forgettable year.
“Hopefully, this will be the starting point of my year,” he said.
Still, for those who think his confidence might be misplaced, Hadwin does have a habit of showing up when the table stakes are highest.
In the 2011 Open, he made the cut at Congressional, then stunned the golf world with a fourth-place finish in the Canadian Open at Shaughnessy.
Last year, he came into the final round of the final event at the Web.com needing a minor miracle to crack the top-25 on the money list and secure his PGA card. He proceeded to shoot a 65, which left him tied for second and inside the magic circle before James Hahn, playing in the last group, birdied the last hole to finish alone in second.
“I’ve discussed that with quite a few people,” Hadwin said. “I seem to play better on the big stages, but it’s tough for me to explain why.”
That’s OK. He just hopes he’s still trying to explain why on Sunday.