VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA | Golf isn’t Canada’s national game but the country’s golf fans hunger for a native son to win their national championship. Adam Hadwin, a 23-year-old Canadian Tour player who is advancing rapidly in the game, provided fans at the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver, and across the country, with a thrill when he tied for fourth at the RBC Canadian Open. Hadwin finished at 2-under-par 278 after a final-round 72 on the treacherous course, two shots behind Sean O’Hair and Kris Blanks. O’Hair won in a playoff.
Hadwin showed an almost preternatural calm for a golfer who plies his trade mostly on the Canadian Tour. He won the Tour’s Colombia Tour Championship in March, and then he qualified for the U.S. Open last month. Hadwin made the cut on the number, and shot 68 in the last round at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., to finish T39 and win $24,000 (CDN). He won $228,800 (U.S.) at Shaughnessy, but he wasn’t thinking about money during the week. Hadwin was focusing only on the shot at hand, with the help of his caddie and coach Brett
“He kept me level and focused,” Hadwin said after he signed his scorecard. He had hit his approach shot to the final green within six feet of the hole, knowing he needed to hole out to get into the playoff. Hadwin missed the putt, but that didn’t stop the crowd from cheering and cheering their new Canadian golf hero.
“I wish I’d have made that putt,” said Hadwin, who seems to thrive on being the focus of attention. He said he knew such a moment as he had, finishing so well in a big tournament, would come eventually. He didn’t know if it would happen so soon, but he was also willing to wait. He has been growing into his role as the golfer Canadians will be watching closely, even as Mike Weir, their favourite player still, will try to mount a comeback after learning more about the elbow injury that forced his withdrawal during the second round.
Hadwin showed a ton of game. His swing appeared solid all week, just as it did last year during the RBC Canadian Open at the St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto. Hadwin was the low Canadian there, finishing T37. The extent to which he’s improved can be measured by his moving from that position to where he finished at Shaughnessy. He’ll play in this week’s Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., having earned a spot by finishing in the top 10 at Shaughnessy.
But Hadwin wasn’t going for the top 10 when he started the last round in what was truly a home game for him. He believed he could win. Hadwin lives an hour away, and many of his friends and family were in attendance. He acknowledged them and his growing number of fans as he hit one solid shot after another and putted beautifully.
Hadwin also showed a lot of heart, because he birdied three of the last seven holes in the final round. He had four-putted for double-bogey on the par-3 eighth – an instance when his putting wasn’t so beautiful. But he didn’t let it get to him. Hadwin knew Shaughnessy was playing very difficult, and that he could still challenge for the lead if he got himself back under par for the day and tournament.
“I’m extremely proud of how I played,” Hadwin said. “I kept telling myself all that time (while he was slipping behind in the last round) that you’re not as bad as you’re showing.”
Hadwin played hard. His tee shot on the par-3 12th hole landed an inch from the cup and finished three feet away. He made that and followed with birdies on the next two holes. Hadwin was like a rock star out on the majestic Shaughnessy course with its shadows from the gigantic trees framing every hole, making for quite a show. He wore sunglasses that put one in mind of the great George Knudson, who never won the Canadian Open although he finished in the top 10 four times. Pat Fletcher is the last Canadian to win the national championship, having done so in 1954 just up the road from Shaughnessy, at the Point Grey Golf Club.
Fifty years later, in 2004, Weir took a two-shot lead into the last three holes of the Canadian Open at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. But Weir lost the lead and Vijay Singh beat him in a playoff. The country’s golfers were deflated, but now Hadwin has given them some hope again that a Canadian will one day come through.
Hadwin could be that player, although, as he cautioned after finishing at Shaughnessy, one event isn’t a career.
“If I just hold (and do nothing else in the game) people will look at me as a one-hit wonder. I don’t want that.”
Judging by the quality of his play, his demeanour, and the willingness he demonstrated to be in the limelight, Hadwin needn’t worry that he’ll be a one-hit wonder. What he did was wonderful, but it’s impossible to believe he will be a one-hit wonder.