Insider: Rookie Haley ready to build on his Chile win

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March 21, 2012
John Dell, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Paul Haley II, a rookie on the Nationwide Tour, wasn't surprised he found such instant success by winning in just his third start.

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But the 24-year-old Georgia Tech graduate is also realistic about what's ahead.

"Just because I won doesn't mean the season is over," said Haley, who won the inaugural Chile Classic Presented by Pacific Rubiales earlier this month. "There's a long way to go and I just have to keep that same drive and same focus."

He certainly had his game on full display in Chile with rounds of 67-64-64-71 to claim his first professional victory and first win since the ACC Championships last spring. He admits there were some harrowing moments in the final round but he hung on to beat Joseph Bramlett by three shots.

Haley, a Dallas native who has worked with famed instructor Randy Smith since he was about 8-years-old, said the victory didn't come out of nowhere because he had been playing well for the last few months.

"I had won the ACCs and then I kept my amateur status up until the U.S. Amateur and I had been playing well during that time," said Haley, who turned pro and then made it to the final stage of PGA TOUR qualifying school. "When I got to q-school I was feeling good about my game and even earlier in my first two tournaments of the season I thought I was close."

Despite missing the cut in his previous tournament at the Panama Claro Championship, Haley was confident going into the tournament in Chile.

It didn't hurt him that his caddie, Clint Keller, who was a high-school teammate, noticed a little something off with Haley's stance.

"He just pointed out something in my alignment where my feet were kind of shut and I opened it up a little and it helped me," Haley said. "I was back to normal and I just went out and played."

Haley admits that in his younger days in college or even last year he would have probably been affected by missing the previous cut, but he didn't let that get to him. He's intent on trying to focus on the big picture and not dwell on things.

"It's easy to say but hard to do," Haley said about the attitude he wants when he plays. "I've been working on that mental aspect of the game a lot."

2012 Chile Classic

In the final round of the Chile Classic presented by Pacific Rubiales, Paul Haley II shot a final round 71 to claim his first Nationwide Tour victory.

With the $108,000 he pocketed, Haley jumped up to second on the money list behind Skip Kendall.

After a week off the Nationwide Tour makes its domestic debut this week at the Chitmacha Louisiana Open and Haley's looking forward to getting back out and playing.

It shouldn't be a surprise that yet another former ACC player is making his mark in pro golf. There are 31 former ACC players on the PGA TOUR and 15 more on the Nationwide Tour this season.

Haley is one of many former Georgia Tech players who have won on the Nationwide Tour joining the likes of Stewart Cink, Troy Matteston, Michael Clark, David Duval, Tripp Isenhour, Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder, Charlie Rymer and Nicholas Thompson.

"You look at the quality of programs in the ACC and there are so many out there in pro golf," Haley said. "We've had a great tradition and there's Clemson, Duke, Wake Forest so it's just kind of been a pipeline when you look at the whole conference."

Haley also said that seeing players who he competed against in college such as Harris English and Russell Henley of Georgia doing so well provides plenty of motivation. English and Henley won as amateurs on the Nationwide Tour last season.

Haley has gone from amateur golf to the pro game without playing on the mini-tours. He says that's not as easy as it sounds.

"I've been lucky enough that I'm in my early 20s and some good things have happened but I've worked really hard," said Haley, who still has weekly sessions with Smith in Dallas.

One of Haley's defining moments came early in his college career. He was redshirted his first season at Georgia Tech then hardly played the next season.

"Heading into that third year I had to make a decision and kind of figure out what I wanted to accomplish," Haley said. "By my junior year it was now or never and then I started making strides my junior year."

He wound up winning twice his senior season in 2010-11 and had five top-10 showings.

Haley admits he is venturing into new territory because he's never played a full year as a pro. He knows the long season will be a grind, especially when it gets late in the summer and players are all fighting to get inside the top 25 on the money list.

He's already put a lot of time in the gym and expects to continue that routine throughout the season.

"You definitely want to keep it going and I definitely want to be up there again in position to win," Haley said. "I'll play around 25 events and I just want to be consistent in my approach."

After his initial professional victory Haley didn't do anything crazy with his winner's check. As a business management major at Georgia Tech he knew exactly what to do with the money. "I put it in the bank," he said.

John Dell has covered golf for the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina for the last 18 years. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. You can reach him at johndell@triad.rr.com.

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