Hadwin proves that he belongs
The 29-year-old Canadian's win proved his worth to his biggest critic, himself
March 12, 2017
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Adam Hadwin escapes the Snake Pit and wins the Valspar Championship
PALM HARBOR, Fla – His fiancée, his caddie, the shots that were coming off his clubs—they kept telling Adam Hadwin he belonged, that he was good enough to be a PGA TOUR winner.
But there’s believing, and then there’s believing. Hadwin had to prove it to himself, and he had to do it the hard way. After making a double-bogey 6 at the watery 16th hole to lose the last of his four-stroke lead to begin the day, Hadwin regrouped and finished par-par to shoot 71 and edge surging Patrick Cantlay (68) by a stroke at the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort.
The wait was over.
“This is going to take some time to sink in,” said Hadwin, 29.
He was talking about playing in elite tournaments like the World Golf Championships and the majors, but anyone who was paying attention knew Hadwin was an elite player all along.
“I like his demeanor more than anything,” Mike Weir said from his home in Salt Lake City. He was at Innisbrook early in the week as he was named one of Nick Price’s assistants for the Presidents Cup at Liberty National, Sept. 28-Oct. 1, and the fact that fellow Canadian Hadwin won the Valspar, throwing his name into the mix for a spot on the team, seemed fitting.
“I like his competitive spirit,” Weir added. “He’s not a Dustin Johnson type, but he’s more of a guy who’s in control of himself, and that can go a long way. He’s more like a Jim Furyk, a guy who plays the percentages and plays to his strengths and knows how to plot his way around.”
Adam Hadwin interview after winning Valspar
One might even say Hadwin is like a Mike Weir, but playing from the other side of the ball, and with a beard. Hadwin makes a false cast before pulling the club back in earnest, a move that the eight-time PGA TOUR winner Weir, 46, has made throughout his prolific career.
“He’s got a really good head on his shoulders,” said David Hearn, who shot a final-round 70 (T18) and hung around the Copperhead to congratulate countryman Hadwin on the W. “He’s kind of an all-around player. Apart from his putting, which is usually very, very solid, nothing in his game is crazy good. He just does everything very, very well.”
The same has been said, more than once, of Jordan Spieth—good company to be in. But Hadwin has admittedly lost his head, too, and more than once, whether the game was golf or soccer or anything else. “I was a poor loser,” he said. He also lacked confidence, sometimes wondering if he really belonged on TOUR, sometimes needing direction in other aspects of his life.
Kevin Stinson, a fellow touring professional who grew up with Hadwin in British Columbia and lived with him in Phoenix for five years, describes his old roommate as a tireless worker who has earned every bit of his success. But Stinson also tells of a time when Hadwin locked himself out of the house and, desperate for help, called Stinson—at a tournament in South Africa.
“He called me asking what to do,” Stinson says with a laugh. “I told him, ‘Call a locksmith.’”
Hadwin was sometimes late to grasp the obvious, like the fact that he was good enough not just to play on TOUR but to win. “I think this proves we belong out here,” said Joe Cruz, his caddie. “I know he's believed it ever since Palm Springs, and it's cool to pull one out.”
It was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in Palm Springs that Hadwin shot a third-round 59, his 13 birdies and no bogeys making him just the eighth player to break 60 on TOUR. Although he lost the next day—Hudson Swafford edged him by a shot—the 59 was invaluable for his self-belief.
As for Hadwin’s temper, that’s where his fiancée Jessica Dawn Kippenberger came in. They met when Hadwin was in Wichita, Kansas, for a Web.com Tour event, and Hadwin later proposed via a game of hangman. (WILL YOU MARRY ME was the correct phrase.) But it wasn’t all hearts and flowers; Dawn got on him for his outbursts. She is not a golfer, and, Hadwin says, she has no interest in being a golfer. Instead, she reads his body language as he plays. The tipping point may have come at the Valspar last year, when Hadwin snapped his 7-iron against a tree.
“I’ve just learned,” he said. “I’ve really learned to calm down and stay patient, to understand that the shot that I’m hitting is not the most important thing in life right now. And you know, it’s funny which came first, me enjoying life and playing better golf, or playing better golf and enjoying life. It’s hard to say, but the two go hand-in-hand.”
It’s a chicken-and-egg question fit for a sports psychologist, but Hadwin has bigger things to worry about, from his potential vice-captain Weir to WGCs to wedding bells.
This is going to take some time to sink in.
Adam Hadwin wins at Valspar