Humana Challenge interview: James Hahn

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January 18, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Humana Challenge transcripts archive

DOUG MILNE:  Like to welcome James Hahn to the interview room after a 5‑under par 67 in round two of the Humana Challenge, a nice little stretch coming in on your back nine, birdie, eagle, birdie stretch there.  Just a few comments on the round over at La Quinta today.

JAMES HAHN:  Once again, the golf course is in great condition, the greens are rolling true, fairways are rolling firm.  Just a great golf course.  A lot more trees on that golf course than the Palmer.  So I had to think about my shots a little bit more, shot selection more.  I had to think about them, because there's more bunkers out there surrounding the greens.
So overall it was just a good day.  Started off slow, only had two birdies on the, my front nine, I started on the back nine.  And then, yeah, hit some good shots on the back nine, my back nine, which is the front nine on the golf course, and had a stretch of a birdie, eagle, birdie, and that was pretty much my round.

DOUG MILNE:  We'll open it up for some questions.

Q.  There's that stretch on that golf course where you got the back to back par‑5s, both of which are reachable, do you start to salivate when you get to something like that, or do you have to rein yourself in a little bit and say, don't do something stupid?
JAMES HAHN:  Yeah, any time you have back to back par‑5s that are reachable, it's definitely something to look forward to.  Especially if the round's not going well.
If it's going well, then it's also something that you look forward to playing.  Because I had 3‑iron into one of the par‑5s and I actually missed the fairway on the second par‑5.  But my stats for par‑5s are under par, so it's just ‑‑ I don't really think you guys really want to know what was going on in my head.
(Laughter.)
Because I wasn't having a good round.  And it's one of those, it's a short par‑5, it's reachable.  So if you really want to know, I was just glad that I could hit five shots and make par.  Because most par‑4s or all par‑4s, if you hit five shots you make bogey.
So it was one of those things where a round that really wasn't going well.  It's nice to have putts for birdie, but it's almost an easy par, an automatic par which feels like bogey some days, but some days it feels like par.  Not sure if that answers your question.

Q.  It's the second full field event of the season and your first year out here and you're tied for the lead, are you at all surprised to be sitting here and in the position you are?
JAMES HAHN:  Very.  It's always been my dream to play on the PGA TOUR.  Like I said yesterday, it was just a good day.  And I'm not going to sit in these press conference rooms every day that I play golf tournaments.
So I'm just soaking it in, having a good time, enjoying talking to you guys and answering your questions.  So aside from ‑ and my phone's been blowing up non‑stop (phone ringing) sorry guys.  I apologize.  It's my mom.
But, any time that I play a good round, it feels good and makes me cherish the momentum a little bit more, because I know there's few and far between.

Q.  How old were you when you came to the UnitedStates and then when you get a chance, could you walk us through the eagle shot by shot on the eagle?
JAMES HAHN:  Sure.  I was two years old when I came to the UnitedStates.  And I started golf when I was four.
So my dad owned a driving range, back when I was growing up in Oakland, that was called Lew Galbraith Golf Course and then they shut down the golf course.  My dad still operated the driving range, so just a Tin Cup kind of guy.  Just driving range rat, I guess.  Just hitting balls on the range, very rarely playing on the golf course.  So I think that answers the first part.  The second part?

Q.  The eagle.  Walk us through that.
JAMES HAHN:  The eagle, hit a ‑‑ I was just coming off of a birdie and had some adrenaline pumping, had some momentum finally, because I had a stretch of pars for the longest time.  I think a bogey in there late in the front nine.  So just hit a great driver down the fairway‑‑ hit about‑‑ it was one of those, it was a long drive stat hole.  So I kind of came out of my shoes a little bit.
Hit it 310 off the tee and had about 220 to the pin and hit a smooth 3‑iron, didn't want to really over power a 4‑iron, so I know I had a lot of adrenaline in me and finally a hole that I can birdie.  And just hit it too good.  Hit the center of the green landed it 220, rolled to the back.  Had another one of those perfect lies that I remember talking to you guys yesterday about that it was just a perfect lie.  I could have hit it with a 6‑iron and probably hit it within two feet.
And I remember the conversation that we all had yesterday about how we make it more difficult than it really is.  And just decided to grab my 54 degree wedge, because that's what I use with to hit these little bump and run shots.  And read the break perfectly, broke about two feet straight down the hill, and then it was actually, it was an ideal chip to chip‑in because all you have to do is get it started.  It's not like I had to force it up a hill or read too much in the break.  Just get it started down the line and luckily I read it right, perfect speed, and it went in.

Q.  What was the distance on the chip?
JAMES HAHN:  I would say I was only three feet off the green.  And the total distance was probably about 30 feet.

Q.  Seemed like your life and your career started taking some interesting turns in college.  Can you describe what happened there and then what happened after college and how it all just kind of?
JAMES HAHN:  Did somebody pay you to ask that question?
(Laughter.)

Q.  Well someone did.
JAMES HAHN:  Good.  Because my college career was nothing to be proud of.  Went to the UC Berkeley, played my freshman year, made the NCAA's as a team.  Second year I played maybe four events.  And then Saturday, rode the bench for the remainder of the year.

Q.  Because of performance?
JAMES HAHN:  No comment.  Can I say no comment?
(Laughter.)

DOUG MILNE:  You can say whatever you want.
JAMES HAHN:  Let's just say extra curricular activities got in the way.  College life.  And rode the bench for the second half of the year and then I remember going into the coach's office and had a discussion, it was more of me just listening to him talk about how much he didn't want me on the team and whatnot, but so sat on the bench my junior year and then it got to a point where it was over at that point.  And I decided to quit my college golf team my senior year, which I regret to this day, and decided to graduate before and turn pro.
Some still‑‑ I had some hard feelings about that, 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.

Q.  You kept the dream alive by doing what?
JAMES HAHN:  Yeah, right.  Well, it was, I went the next four years just walking around with a chip on my shoulder because they ended up winning the NCAAs the year after I graduated.  And the running joke was they finally had to kick James off the team to win a championship.  So it actually hurt a lot, because I'm really good friends with all the Cal alums that played on the golf team, and it was just a bitter taste in my mouth because I was so happy to see them win, and still keep in touch with Tomasulo, he was on the team, and very happy for all those guys and how much work they put into it to be rewarded for that.
And then me being the, being on the short end of the stick and being the butt end of a joke.  So just walking around with a chip on my shoulder and that kind of lit a fire under me and wanted to prove everyone wrong that hey, look, it was a mistake to not have me on the team.  But I was not also going to let that, my senior year, define my golfing career.
I was not, I was destined not to make that the end of my golfing career.  So it was just another chapter in the book.  Would you, that was deep.  I can write a book.  I should write a book.  Copyright everyone.  You got that?

Q.  We can help you write a book.  When you dug down deep what did you find and what did you apply to yourself and your game to turn it into the success you are?
JAMES HAHN:  Well, back in college and when I graduated college, I had every excuse in the book.  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 throwing basically just making every excuse why I would not be successful.
And my first year playing golf professionally it didn't go so well.  And I quit golf for a solid year, got back into it, and made a commitment to myself saying that hard work can overcome.  And that's kind of what I did.  I just worked harder than everybody else.
I wasn't doing anything right really the first couple years, but eventually I figured it out.  Just going through trial and error is pretty much how I learned to play professionally.  And to this day I still go on YouTube for swing tips.  And you guys might joke about that, about me, I mean, you have Shaun Foley out here and, well, not out here, but on the PGA TOUR, you have Butch Harmon, I'm missing some names.  Hank Haney.  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.

Q.  How much instruction have you had and when you don't go to YouTube and you feel like have you to go to a real person, what happens then?
JAMES HAHN:  I don't understand.

Q.  Have you had much ‑‑ when's the last time you had a lot of instruction from a teacher?
JAMES HAHN:  Not since my dad was coaching me back when I was growing up.  But that's just the way I learned to play golf.  My dad, it's funny, 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.  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.  You know.
(Laughter.)
TV.  In realtime, I guess.  So Davis Love was actually one of the swings that I tried to swing like.  Nice high follow through, a lot of extension.  Greg Norman, another guy that I idolized growing up as a kid.  And it was just kind of just trying to swing like them.  Not because it's right or wrong, but it just looks cool.  And it's gotten me this far and why change.

Q.  That Metropolitan Course at Oakland is that the one by the airport there?
JAMES HAHN:  Yes.  Yes.  It was originally called Lew Galbraith and then they shut down the golf course for the Port of Oakland to put a dredge in.  Not sure if you guys know what that is, but it allows bigger ships to come into the port.
So all that mud and soil and rocks and whatever, they just laid it on top of the golf course.  And they shut down the golf course for about four to five years and then they rebuilt it, it's actually a Johnny Miller design now.  Great golf course.  And I still go out there and practice and chip and do my, take some people's money out there, if they don't know who I am.

Q.  Can you talk about the things that attracted you to the game and if they were present or how you felt today out there playing golf at the level you are.
JAMES HAHN:  What attracted me to the game back when I was growing up, I grew up with the Chi Chi's and Lee Trevino and a lot of characters on TOUR.  So for me it was pretty cool.  They made golf cool back then before golf was cool.  Payne Stewart even wearing his knickers and that.
Back then really I just didn't watch too much TV, it was just golf for me 24/7.  So any time golf was on TV, that's what I would watch.  And I didn't really understand baseball or football even back then.  So it was just one of those things where, since I played the sport, that they were people that I could look up to and that really attracted me the most to the game and knowing that people can make a living playing golf and be on TV and everything.  So it was ‑‑ and it was also my dad's dream for one of us, my older brother to play on TOUR, so it was just kind of me trying to fulfill my dad's dream and mine.

DOUG MILNE:  All right.  Well, James, as always, we appreciate your time.  Best of luck on the weekend.

JAMES HAHN:  Thank you very much.

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