A Calm Attitude, And Friends, Help Canadian To PGA TOUR Title
- Category: Tour
- Published: 2016-11-24
Canada's Mackenzie Hughes Will Be Teeing It Up At The Masters After His Win In The RSM Classic, His First On The PGA TOUR - Image Credit Golf Canada
By Gord Montgomery (iG)
Like Joe Cocker, the rocker from the 1960s and ‘70s, Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes got by with a little help from his friends … in two different ways.
Hughes, who won for the first time on the PGA TOUR at the RSM Classic used the longtime hit sitcom series, Friends, to relax after his rounds during the event which he led, or was tie for the lead for each of the five days, including the extra day playoff.
And, he also got some help from unnamed “friends,” those being guys who decided against playing in a Web.com Tour event earlier this summer that set the Dundas, ON., native on his winning path.
Speaking to media from across the country during a teleconference call, Hughes said poor play had plagued him for much of the early season this past year, up until he caught a break at a Web.com Tour stop in upper New York state. In the Monday qualifier he’d posted a 69 that was three shots from good enough to gain entry into the tournament.
But as it turned out, several players who had qualified chose not to play so he drew in, finishing fifth. “I got in on the number and then something in my swing just clicked,” he said of going from barely getting into that tournament to a title six weeks later which earned him his PGA card.
Then, in only his fifth PGA event he hit a $1.07M (US) payday at the RSM Classic with rounds of 61-68- 66-69 (265), good enough for a 5-way tie for first place. In the playoff, he ended up winning with a par on the first hole, a 195-par 3, of the fifth day of play.
“A few years ago I was trying to figure out freshman golf on the Mackenzie Tour/PGA TOUR Canada and to climb through the ranks like I have hasn’t been easy,” Hughes said of earlier times. “There’s been some ups and downs along the way. Now, sitting here with my first PGA win, it’s been quite a journey and one I’m really proud of.”
Speaking to his earlier struggles this year, Hughes said he never lost faith but it wasn’t easy. “It’s certainly been a big rise from where I was mid-summer to where I am now,” he said. “I always thought I could do this. To be where I am right now is sooner than I expected maybe, but it was never beyond what I thought I could do.
As for those bumps in the road along the way, he continued, “It’s all part of the journey. There is no straight line straight to the top and the way I’ve always looked at success and climbing that ladder is there are going to be valleys and holes in the road. You’re going to fall down sometimes but if you can climb out of those holes, get back up, you’re stronger for it.”
One of those holes in the road on the way to this title for Hughes came on the third day of the RSM Classic when after going 47 holes without a bogie he pencilled in a triple on a par 4, taking him from the lead alone to a tie for the lead. He remained calm however and finished strongly.
“In years past I might have been more upset than I was. I certainly was upset but I knew more than anything it was one bad decision then a series of sort of bad breaks, if you will. I went to the next tee thinking, “Wow! That hurts. That sucks.” But at the same time through 47 holes of a PGA TOUR event, I’m tied for the lead. I told myself not to get down on myself, not to have a pity party in the middle of my round. I said to myself ‘The opportunity is still right there. Just go take it.’ ”
After finishing in a five-way tie for top spot, Hughes had the chance to win on the second playoff hole, on the Sunday, but missed a birdie putt in the darkness. That sent the remaining foursome to the one extra hole the next day. As for staying calm overnight, Hughes said he found some friendly faces to help him cope with the nerves and that, along with some home cooking by his mom helped him shove reality aside for the evening.
“Having my mom and my wife there certainly helped. We weren’t talking golf in the evening. We had some wine, watched some TV. Watched some old reruns of Friends. That was kind of my routine; I watched Friends all week. Way back from Season 1, I watched Friends. It was a way to disconnect and have a laugh. Just enjoy being with my wife and my mom. I’m not going to lie — I didn’t sleep well the last couple of nights. There was a lot of tossing and turning, things rolling through my mind.”
Continuing, he said, “I tried to look at it as, I’ve got this great opportunity in front of me tomorrow morning. I’ve got a 1-in- 4 chance to win a PGA event and if I was given those odds before the tournament started, I would have been first in line waiting for the opportunity.”
With the win Hughes is guaranteed a spot on the PGA TOUR for the next three seasons. He said that’s a blessing given the stress one is under as a rookie in the company of the world’s best players. He also gets an invite to The Master’s in April and to the Tournament of Champions in Maui this January.
“Keeping your card for the first time, extending your time out there, to have that secured, locked up for the next three years is such a tremendous weight off my shoulders,” he said of one of the perks to winning. “You just can’t buy that kind of security and freedom.”
So after a slow start to this golf season where he made “only 12 or 13,000 dollars from January to June,” but having pocketed around $1.4M since, the future certainly looks rosy for Mackenzie Hughes, who with some help from friends, or Friends if you will, has settled in nicely to life on the PGA TOUR.