January 18 2013
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- James Hahn says his cell phone has been "blowing up," and as if on cue, it rings.
"Sorry guys, I apologize. It's my mom," the PGA TOUR rookie grins as he sends the call to voice mail. She would have to wait for the specifics of the 67 that left him tied for the lead at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Hahn, who is playing in just his third TOUR event, was simply having too much fun entertaining the media at that moment in time. And he's smart enough, and he's been through enough, to realize that the good times don't always last.
"Any time that I play a good round, it feels good and makes me cherish the momentum a little bit more," Hahn said.
The 31-year-old started playing golf when he was 4, two years after he moved with his family to California from Korea. His father ran a driving range near the Oakland airport and Hahn calls himself a "Tin Cup kind of guy, just a driving-range rat" who learned the game from his dad and watching players like Davis Love III and Greg Norman on TV.
"I met Davis Love for the first time today, and I remember watching golf when he was in his prime and he still is in his prime, I think, a good long 20 years," Hahn said. "But I remember my dad would bring me in whenever these stars would be on the TV and he would say, 'Hey, I want you to swing like this guy.' And back then I guess that was the old school YouTube. In real-time, I guess."
It's been years since Hahn had a lesson -- TV or otherwise -- from his father, whose dream was to see Hahn or his older brother make it to the PGA TOUR. Instead of seeking counsel from Butch Harmon or Hank Haney or Sean Foley, though, Hahn can be found at his computer searching YouTube.
"And you guys might joke about that, about me," Hahn said. "... I mean, these are some really big names and I go on YouTube, so I just want to make my swing look pretty and I think it's been working so far."
Hahn was good enough to play golf at UC-Berkeley -- for a little while, at least. Extra curricular activities -- "college life," Hahn said with a shrug -- got in the way so the coach soured on him and put him on the bench. Hahn quit the team as a senior, which he says he regrets to this day, then went on to graduate and turn pro.
"I could have done a little differently, looking back, but for how young I was and how much, how stubborn I was back then, it's hard to blame kids for being kids," said Hahn.
The year after he graduated, the Bears won the NCAAs "and the running joke was they finally had to kick James off the team to win a championship," Hahn reported. It hurt. A lot. He admits to walking around with a chip on his shoulder for several years.
"When I graduated from college, I had every excuse in the book," Hahn said. "My parents weren't wealthy, we never belonged to a country club, I bought my golf clubs off e Bay, you know, we just never really had that much money for me to pursue golf as a career. So I was basically just making every excuse why I would not be successful."
And in a self-fulfilling prophecy, his first year as a pro wasn't a success. So Hahn quit the game and held a variety of odd jobs, working in an advertising agency and selling women's shoes at a department store.
Hahn grew up, though, and refocused himself. He eventually won on what is now called PGA TOUR Canada and the Web.Com Tour, earning his TOUR card when he finished sixth on the money list last year.
And depending on what happens over the next 36 holes in the California desert, reality just might become better than any dream Hahn has ever had.