For Adam Hadwin, qualifying for next week’s U.S. Open is even more rewarding than it appears on the surface.
Granted, earning the right to compete at one of golf’s four major championships is a weighty feat in and of itself.
But for Hadwin, firing two sparkling rounds last Monday to tie for first at a sectional qualifier in Maryland and punch his ticket to the Open represents a ray of hope in an otherwise frustrating season – an indication that his A game, seemingly just out of reach in 2013, can indeed be summoned at crunch time.
“It’s something I’ve been searching for this season,” acknowledged the 25-year-old Abbotsford product, who currently sits 89th on the Web.com Tour money list. “I’ve had such brilliant moments throughout rounds and even throughout tournaments, it’s been really frustrating to finish the way I have.
“I feel like my game, especially compared to last year, has been so much better overall for this stretch of time, but I just haven’t been able to finish off events and kind of get on a roll. I start playing well and then kind of falter, and come back and throw it all away. This year’s been really frustrating in that regard.”
Coming off a terrific showing on the Web.com Tour in 2012 which saw him earn $168,000 and fall just shy of earning his PGA Tour card, Hadwin got off to a slow start in 2013. He missed the cut in the first three tournaments of the season, and while he’s survived to play the weekend at six of the past seven events, he’s still seeking his first top-10 finish.
That said, the U.S. Open berth has energized him, and he’s looking forward to the challenge at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Penn., a course he hasn’t played before. The event runs June 13-16.
“I think it’s one of the shortest U.S. Open golf courses in recent history,” he analyzed. “But that just means they’re going to grow the rough longer and make it firmer and faster (on the greens). It’s always a tough test.
“But I feel like my game maybe suits those types of golf courses better than it does when it’s a shootout. I’m looking forward to getting there on the grounds and developing a game plan.”
As he prepares to play the second major of his career, Hadwin finds it instructive to mentally revisit his first.
He also qualified for the U.S. Open in 2011, at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. It was just the second PGA Tour event of his young pro career, and his reaction was natural.
“I don’t know if I’d say I was overwhelmed, but I was definitely kind of in awe of the whole thing,” he recalled. “When you first walk out on the range and you see the 10 best players in the world back-to-back – Rory (McIlroy), Tiger (Woods), (Phil) Mickelson, all those guys hitting balls – and you’re walking by and you’re in the stall three down from them, you get star-struck at the beginning.
“Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to play a few more events, experienced being in contention a couple times. I’m definitely much more mentally prepared, knowing what to expect and feeling like I belong out there with them.”
Indeed, Hadwin proved he belonged at Congressional, making the cut and finishing in a tie for 39th.
He’s burnished his reputation since, notching a pair of top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour and finishing 30th on the Web.com order of merit in 2012.
“There’s a lot of extra stuff happening around that golf tournament than just a normal, regular event,” Hadwin noted. “An advantage of being there once before is knowing just how crazy the week is, as far as the amount of people that are there and what it takes to get prepared.
“But when it comes down to it, when you tee it up, golf is golf.”