On Wednesday evening I chatted with Canadian Tour player Adam Hadwin, who is trying to earn his PGA Tour card and playing in this week’s McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Georgia.
Just for some background — Hadwin is in a unique position to potentially bypass PGA Tour Q-School (similar to Bud Cauley’s situation, but Hadwin has had fewer starts so he has a little more work cut out for him). The 23-year-old Canadian has made four cuts in four starts on Tour in 2011, including two top 10s — T4 at the RBC Canadian Open and T7 at last week’s Frys.com Open, which gained him a spot in the McGladrey (by finishing in the top ten, a player automatically gets a spot in the next event).
Hadwin has collected $432,752 in non-member earnings this year. If he were a member, he’d currently be No. 145 on the official Money List. To become a special temporary member, he has to earn $563,729, the same amount as No. 150 on last year’s Money List — which means he needs to make approximately another $130,000.
Since he doesn’t have a sponsor’s exemption to the Disney, Hadwin needs to finish no worse than a three-way tie for 6th or solo 7th to secure an exemption to the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament and be guaranteed Nationwide Tour status for 2012. Of course, he can skip the dreaded process altogether if he wins this week or betters the earnings of No. 125 on last year’s Money List ($786,977).
Without further ado, here we go! I think you’ll enjoy it. Adam seems like a cool guy and he had some fun(ny) stories.
(This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity — it’s still pretty long and I’m biased, obviously, but I think it’s interesting!)
Q: You’ve made 4 cuts in 4 starts and notched two top-tens and your lowest finish was T39 at the U.S. Open — which is very impressive. For most guys, it’s tougher to adjust and takes more time. How would you explain your ability to adapt so quickly playing in the bigs?
ADAM HADWIN: I’ve played the Canadian Tour now for two years. I went over to South Africa and played over there. I’ve done some traveling, and I think that’s probably the biggest reason why I’ve been able to adjust a little bit, better than some may have, just because I’ve won on the Canadian Tour twice now, so you get a sense of what it takes to win at that level. It’s only going to help you on a bigger stage like this.
Q: Obviously, you’re always playing to win, but…did you expect? Or were you a little surprised to win so quick out of the gate — not just once but twice — last year on the CanTour?
ADAM HADWIN: Yeah, I tend to try not to put any expectations on myself. I know I can play well, and I know how well I can play when I put everything together. I just kind of went out there and tried to enjoy myself and just ‑‑ I know it’s so cliché, but one shot at a time and that sort of thing. But winning my first year was good, a huge confidence boost. It gave me just the belief that I could do it.
Q. I know every golfer is going to say they’re playing to win, but going into last week, did you have any thoughts about the possibility of skipping Q‑school in the back of your mind?
ADAM HADWIN: Not while I was playing. You know, obviously I haven’t done any of the number crunching or anything. I let kind of everybody else do that, and then I look at it and see what I have to do. Another cliché thing, like I’m always out there to win. I’m not concerned with is it fourth place finish going to get me to final stage of Q‑school or anything like that. I’m more concerned with I’m three shots back of the leader.
I was disappointed with last week, but I went in there with the goal of continuing to play, top‑tenning and getting in this week and knowing that if I don’t top 10, I don’t have another chance. Would I be happy with another top 10? Yeah, absolutely. Do I want to win? Of course.
Q. Do you know what the magic number is for you to get within the top 125 or top 150 of last year’s Money List?
ADAM HADWIN: I read somewhere today, I guess one of the Canadian writers called the PGA TOUR to ask what the deal was with me and status and everything, and I have to ‑‑ in order for ‑‑ I think even in order to gain status into final stage of Q‑school, I have to be what’s considered a special temporary member, and in order to get that, I have to get within the top 150 of last year, and last year it was like 560. So I think before anything can even happen, even if I am inside the top 150 at the end of this year, if I don’t pass that $560,000 mark then I don’t get anything, if that makes sense.
Obviously I’m still confused on the whole thing. There’s so many categories and exemptions, and like I said, I don’t even worry about it. I just go and play, and at the end of the year if the PGA says, hey, you’re in the final stage, then okay, awesome, and if they say this is your Nationwide status, then awesome, and if they say, sorry about your luck, you’ve got nothing, then okay.
Q. And what was it like playing on the Sunshine Tour? How long did you go over there for?
ADAM HADWIN: I was only there for two weeks (at the beginning of this year in February). I wasn’t there for very long. But it was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of good talent over there. A lot of the guys from that Tour will stay in Europe and closer. But it was fun. It was a good two weeks. I played two of the better events, so we had, I think, three or four players in the top 100 in the world there, and it was good courses and good fields and a good way to kind of see different parts and do some serious traveling.
Q. What stuck out to you that was different about golf and the tour in South America compared to the States?
ADAM HADWIN: If anything, the only thing that you could notice was that players seemed to be a little bit more friendly with each other over there. The way I saw it, I kind of understand why Europe seems to have a lot more fun in Ryder Cups than the American teams do, and it’s just ‑‑ it just seems like they’re always having a beer with each other and they’re always traveling together and all that sort of things. I kind of noticed it at the U.S. Open, as well. You’re staying in the hotel, you’d walk through and all the European guys would be at the bar having a beer with each other, and they almost made it a point to have that, whereas the other players they travel with families more often and that sort of thing.
Q. So, you were in contention on Sunday at the Canadian Open this year. That must have been pretty cool. What was it like to have kind of a home crowd advantage going on there?
ADAM HADWIN: It was nice. Certainly it felt like I was playing at home, yeah. You know, especially compared to a tournament like this, or for example last week at Fry’s, I was in the second to last group, very close situation to that Canadian Open, and then not having basically ‑‑ I mean, they were happy that I was doing well, but they’re still cheering for other players.
Q. After the Canadian Open, were you recognized at places that you normally wouldn’t be recognized at?
ADAM HADWIN: Well, it’s certainly changed like at golf courses, people are around when I play golf. I can go practice and you can see people look at me funny like that, or stuff like that. I still don’t get recognized outside of golf clothes. But I was recognized once at a restaurant for the first time when I wasn’t at a golf course, but I was still in golf clothes, so I don’t count that yet.
Q. What happened and can you elaborate?
ADAM HADWIN: Yeah, it was October at the Cactus Club. I was going in the restaurant, and I held the door open for this lady, and she goes, You look a lot like Adam Hadwin. I go, really? She goes, I was watching him at the Canadian Open and I was like six feet away from him, and my boyfriend and his friends were all daring me to grab his ass because I said he was the best looking one in the field, and I’m just kind of standing there going, yeah, okay, uh‑huh. I just kind of looked at her and I go, well, I am Adam. I can tell you what my driver looks like to prove it if you want. So I pull out my driver’s license, and as soon as she sees it, she grabs my ass, and she said, now I can tell my boyfriend I grabbed your ass.
Q. That’s a great story.
ADAM HADWIN: Yeah, she was pretty cool. That was kind of the first time that’s ever happened, so it was kind of funny. Her friend walked in and she ‑‑ she brought me right back down, and she goes, do you know who this is? This is Adam Hadwin, and her friend just kind of looked at me like, who? So up in the clouds and right back down to reality afterwards. But it was pretty cool. It was fun. Hopefully that happens a lot more often.
Q. And obviously I’m sure you’ve heard that during the telecast for the Canadian Open and on Twitter, people were saying you looked like Vinny Chase from Entourage. Had you heard that before, or was that the first time?
ADAM HADWIN: The first time I heard that was last year’s Canadian Open. I was playing well through two rounds, and I think it was Rich Lerner who actually used it for the first time, and then I was interviewed by Golf Channel after my second round, and they were asking me about it and stuff like that. Then that weekend I was actually being called Aquaman and Vinny and all that. It was pretty funny. It was cool at the same time. Since then it’s just kind of ‑‑ I don’t feel like it’s been as much, but you know, it still exists, and people still say it. I’ve actually had people come up to me and say, wow, you really do look like him and stuff like that.
Q. Do you have an entourage you travel with?
ADAM HADWIN: No, but my manager looks exactly like E (Eric from Entourage who is Vinny’s best friend and manager), so it’s kind of funny.
Q. Who do you root for in the Ryder Cup?
ADAM HADWIN: If I had to choose, I’d say Europe, and if I didn’t have to choose I’d say I just want to see good golf. I’m kind of like that in lot of sports except for Vancouver Canucks. I just really want to see a good game.
Q. So would you rather win the PGA Championship or the Canadian Open?
ADAM HADWIN: Canadian. Maybe Canadian first and then PGA. It’s our national championship. No Canadian has won since 1954. I think it would be a bigger story if I won the Canadian Open, at least in Canada.
Q. Do you have any superstitions?
ADAM HADWIN: I don’t. I do everything differently every day…I don’t do the same stretches every day or like in the same order. I don’t warm up with the same clubs every time. Just whatever. Whatever I feel like that day.
Q. Really? Wow, that’s interesting coming from a golfer.
ADAM HADWIN: I only mark my golf ball with two things: A little coin my girlfriend gave me, and then an American half dollar that one of my sponsors gave me. It had a great story behind it, so I started using that, and those are the only two things I mark my golf ball with.
Q. What was the story behind it?
ADAM HADWIN: (One of my sponsors) and a buddy were in Vegas, and they were down to like their last ‑‑ I don’t think they were down to their last 50 cents, but they were down to like their last five dollars and 50 cents or something, and they played all night and they worked it all the way back up to 10 grand. He said he had that with him, and it brought him luck, so he gave it to me and said it’ll bring you luck, so I’ve been using it.
Q. When did he give it to you?
ADAM HADWIN: I think he might have given it to me before Canadian Open maybe, which would explain a lot, right?
Q. Exactly. It must be the coin.
ADAM HADWIN: Nothing to do with my golf game.
Q. If you were Joe LaCava, would you have stuck with Dustin Johnson or gone to Tiger Woods?
ADAM HADWIN: Personally, I’m more of a loyalty type guy. I’ll stay with one person. If I’ve had results with someone, someone that I’ve worked with, I would typically stay with them. But I mean, obviously he had a great opportunity with Tiger… I would have stuck with (Dustin).
Q. I know that Winnipeg gets hockey back and it’s a pretty big deal. Can you explain why to some Americans who don’t understand the significance?
ADAM HADWIN: Well, I think the biggest thing is they didn’t realize what they had when it was there. Obviously hockey is Canada’s game. I think participation‑wise it’s third in Canada, but it always will be Canada’s game. It’s just kids grew up wanting to play hockey. It’s part of our winter. You can’t do anything else, you might as well go to the rink and skate.
It’s a hockey country. I think you could put a hockey team in a lot of cities there, and they’ll do way better than some of the bigger markets in the U.S. it’ll always draw a crowd, and I think they almost sold out the entire building for season tickets. It’s hard to explain, but they love their hockey. They love going and drinking beer and watching fights and seeing people hit through the glass and scoring goals and all that sort of thing.
Q. Yeah, it’s like baseball is in America in a way.
ADAM HADWIN: Like baseball, yeah, like baseball or football. Hockey is our football.
Q. And can you tell me a little about your game — what you think your strengths are and what kind of player you would describe yourself as?
ADAM HADWIN: Definitely more of a ballstriker. I hit more fairways. Given my length, as well, I’m fairly above average, especially for my size, off the tee box. I think I was second at the Frys.com in distance for the week, and I can hit fairways, so it’s nice. I hit a lot of greens, and I just don’t hit into a lot of trouble off the tee or into the greens, but I’m working on my short game and putting, and that’s coming along. Biggest weakness would definitely be putting for sure.
Q. Would you ever go to the belly putter?
ADAM HADWIN: No. I don’t think ‑‑ unless I get really desperate, I don’t think I’ll ever go. I have putted with one before, and I think it could be a good training aid for me for certain things, but I don’t think I would ever be able to use one in tournaments, no.
Q. Do you think it’s considered cheating?
ADAM HADWIN: I mean, if it was cheating they’d make it illegal. You know, and if it was cheating you’d see the guys with the belly putter win every week, which you don’t.
Q. A lot of people consider it cheating, even people that use it.
ADAM HADWIN: Yeah, I don’t think it’s cheating. I think if it was really that good, then everybody would use it. I mean, I know a lot of guys are switching and playing with it, but Webb (Simpson) has been using one since college. The guy has been using it for seven years now, seven, eight years now. These guys that are just switching, you don’t see them switch to a belly and win the next week.
Well, what’s funny is ‑‑ you’ve already earned $5, $6, $7 million in your career, and now you’re thinking about a putting change? Let’s get real here. If it was going to make that big of a difference, you would have already switched. Just because someone has success with it, all of a sudden ‑‑ it’s not like Webb has had all the success this year because he changed to a belly putter.
Q. Maybe I should ask you about the McGladrey and how the course fits your game or something boring like that.
ADAM HADWIN: Well, it’s not typically a course I would play well at. It’s Bermuda, not something I play on very often. But I’ve got to get a job done. I’ve got to play well. I’ve got no other options.
Adam shot two-under 68 in the first round, which currently puts him at tied for 42nd. Thanks again for your time and good luck this week and the rest of the year!