Hughes embraces changes en route to Price Cutter victory
Canada native moves to 14th on money list with win in Missouri, secures TOUR card
August 14, 2016
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Mackenzie Hughes won at Highland Springs CC with the course's caddie master, Terry Frost, on the bag. (Adam Stanley/PGA TOUR)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – It’s been more than a year of change for Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes.
First, he got laser eye surgery, which allowed him to ditch glasses he had been wearing for nearly his whole life.
“If I forgot my sunglasses I was pretty much screwed; now it’s one less thing to worry about. But mainly, watching TV has been nice,” Hughes says with a laugh.
Then he and his longtime girlfriend, Jenna, got engaged.
But no change has been bigger than his status as a professional golfer, as his victory at the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper virtually secures Hughes, 25, a PGA TOUR card for the 2016-17 season.
His win moves him from 88th on the money list to 14th, and the TOUR is within his sights.
However, his win was not without its own challenges.
“This is the hardest day of my life. I had to dig so deep. The thoughts were going crazy in my head, and trying to quiet those down were the greatest challenges of my life,” he said. “There were so many times when I thought about the outcome and what it would mean to me and my family. I just had to bring myself back.”
Hughes went 48 holes without a bogey to finish the tournament, and made only two bogeys all week. He birded the 10th, a par-5, but didn’t make any more birdies until the par-5 18th, when he needed to, after Richy Werenski rolled in a 15-foot eagle putt to tie for the lead.
This is Hughes’ second go-around on the Web.com Tour, after he captured the Order of Merit on Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada in 2013. He struggled that year, making only seven cuts.
He returned to Canada in 2015 for the season and finished 13th on the money list. He earned Web.com Tour status this year through the Qualifying Tournament, where he finished tied for 21st.
He admitted getting to the Web.com Tour the first time around was a big adjustment.
“The travel was grueling, the schedule doubled, and the competition was tougher. I just think everyone has a different learning curve out here,” he said. “Some people come out here and they take off, and then (for) some guys it takes a couple years, and I’m the latter guy. But I feel pretty comfortable now.”
With Hughes’ future basically intact, he said the year – up until this point – had been a struggle.
“The tournament before LECOM, in Wichita, that was tough. I was contemplating going back to Canada, because I didn’t know if I was going to get into the next reshuffle,” he said. “That was a really dark time. When I was in Wichita, I got all the way up to T2, and missed the cut. It took a lot of good self-talk, and people supporting me, to get back from that.”
This week, Hughes’ changes continued, as the Canadian’s usual caddie battled some health problems Thursday night, and Highland Springs’ caddie master, Terry Frost, stepped in during the marathon Saturday after Friday’s second round was postponed due to weather.
“Thirty-two holes is enough for me,” said Frost with a smile after the round had completed. “But we got through it.”
The Hughes-Frost relationship turned comfortable after just two rounds together.
“Things have been working out great,” stated Hughes. “It’s unfortunate for my caddie, but he’s getting attention. It’s more important for him to get that than being out here. I want him to get better, but it’s worked out pretty well.”
Frost, who has been the caddie master for a few years at Highland Springs, works and plays at the course multiple times per week. He has, though, been volunteering at the club since the Web.com Tour started this event in 1990.
After spending a couple days together, Frost believed Hughes is PGA TOUR-bound. After Sunday, that assumption became a reality.
“He’s a great player. We’re going to see him on the TOUR, there’s no doubt about it,” says Frost. “I’ve caddied for a lot of guys and there’s no doubt he’ll be out there. He’s got it.”
This year, Canada didn't earn any Olympic golf medals.— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) August 14, 2016
But Mackenzie Hughes will return to the North with a trophy. pic.twitter.com/cvcuCiGLMK
Hughes is part of Golf Canada’s Young Pro Program – which provides financial and coaching support to past members of its National Amateur Team and includes fellow Web.com Tour members Albin Choi and Taylor Pendrith (who also went to Kent State University with Hughes) – coached by Derek Ingram, who is also Canada’s Olympic golf coach.
From Rio, Ingram said Hughes needs to focus primarily on playing his own game versus focusing on what others are doing.
“When he plays clean, with few mistakes, he has always been a winner and a guy that can play and beat the top players,” he said.
But out of all the aforementioned relationships in Hughes’ life, the most important is the one with his wife-to-be, Jenna Shaw.
Shaw, who works in marketing at their home in Charlotte, followed Hughes’ final round online in the midst of wedding planning and cleaning.
“This win means so much to us, more than words can describe,” Shaw said. “I’m so incredibly proud of him. He’s one of the most dedicated and self-driven individuals I have ever met. He’s been wanting to take a week off, but we knew he couldn’t afford to take off this late in the season and decided it would just be best to keep pushing through, and it feels good knowing it all paid off.”
Shaw and Hughes will likely book their honeymoon this week – they had been delaying it because of Hughes’ unknown status up until this point – but for now, the soon-to-be-newlyweds can bask in Hughes’ success.
“I was thinking about going back to Q-School in the fall, I just didn’t know,” admitted Hughes. “But now, PGA TOUR? Let’s go.”
That’s one more change Hughes won’t mind making.