KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Fatherhood refuels Harkins in chase of TOUR return
February 05, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Brandon Harkins finished runner-up at earlier this season at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at Baha Mar. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
At last month’s Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at Baha Mar, Brandon Harkins made a double bogey late Sunday and slid down the leaderboard. On a Tour where every shot counts and every point counts, the early-season blunder could maybe cost him a chance to return to the PGA TOUR by the end of the summer.
But the vibe in 2020 is different for Harkins.
He and his wife, Rachel, welcomed their first child – a son named Jackson Bo Harkins – in October. Rachel and Jackson were in the Bahamas with Harkins for the first two events of the season, and after he made that double bogey, he found his young family on the 17th tee at Baha Mar’s Royal Blue Golf Course. He gave his wife a squeeze and his son a kiss.
And then he went birdie-eagle to finish the tournament and finish alone in second. All was well.
“Golf is not everything for me right now. It’s just what I do. I go home and see my son and it’s put my entire life into perspective,” said Harkins. “It’s been so good for my mental approach and how I see myself playing golf and what I do. It’s been such a positive for me.”
A past member of The 25, Harkins played the last two seasons on the PGA TOUR, finishing 103rd and 165th respectively on the FedExCup. A brilliant start early in 2017-18 helped him secure playing privileges for the following season, but he struggled at the tail end of 2019 to eventually lose his TOUR card.
In 2018, he was one of the few rookies to earn a spot in THE PLAYERS Championship, and he also teed it up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
“As a first-year player, that was huge,” he said. “I locked up my card early on and I wouldn’t want to say it was easier, but the stress level was much lower.”
Last year, Harkins said, he didn’t feel as though he played much differently than the year prior, but he admits he overworked himself by the time 2019 came to a close.
“I would play a tournament round and then practice for a couple of hours … it seemed like every day,” said Harkins. “You combine that with the gym and everything else going on, and by the end of the year I was totally worn out physically and mentally.”
Not to mention there was a baby on the way.
Harkins and Rachel live within a 10-minute radius of PGA TOUR winner Nick Taylor and his wife Andie, along with the TOUR’s Joel Dahmen and his wife Lona.
Taylor, Harkins and Dahmen spent a lot of time together on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada and remain quite close.
In fact, Taylor’s son Charlie was born three days before Jackson was.
“It’ll be cool to see them grow up together,” Harkins said.
But while the addition of a baby and the loss of a TOUR card could have sent Harkins into a bit of a spiral of questioning what’s next and how his growing family might cope with the changes, the perspective he’s gained has become refreshing and inspiring instead.
“I’ve hardly done any practice,” Harkins said, chuckling. “It seems weird but when I’m home, I just want to see him and be with him. I’m not overdoing it at home, that’s for sure.
“I didn’t hit one golf ball after any round in the Bahamas, which is something very different for me. It speaks to my perspective and how it’s shifted.”
As Harkins looks ahead to the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour schedule – and not, at 33, as one of the young guys out there – he’s realizing that being fresh is more important than grinding.
“I’m just going out and either I’ll play great, or play not so great, and it’s not the end of the world. I’m starting to see that,” he said. “It’s been so good for the mental side of things out here. I’m just not beating myself up anymore like I did in my younger days.”
Before Harkins really decided to make golf his chosen career path in those younger days, he took a gap year between high school and college, traveling Australia and New Zealand on his own.
He has family in Brisbane and put most of his belongings there before going off on his own. In an eight-month period, he played golf only five times. That gave him the itch to refocus and resume the grind once he returned home.
It was a time long before becoming a father when he gained some new perspective on the world-at-large.
He said that while the trip wasn’t needed to help a young Harkins find himself, traveling was one of the best experiences he could have asked for.
“It was a great opportunity and I jumped all over it,” he said.
Now the main thing helping Harkins stamp his passport is being able to play professional golf. Only this year it’ll be different, as he’s added an extra member of his family to those custom forms and flight itineraries.
Combine a new addition to his family with the experience of knowing what it takes to make The 25, and it makes a mature Harkins with a redefined description of success.
The last couple years playing on TOUR will help him monitor his misses and help him stick to his game plan more this year, he said. He knows most of the courses on the Korn Ferry Tour and knows when to be patient, and when to be aggressive.
And if he doesn’t play well, life’s still very good.
“I’ll be the first to say that I used to expect perfection, which is the last thing you’ll get in golf, but that’s my athletic side. I always expected high standards for myself,” he said. “It’s not so much that way. If it happens, great, if it doesn’t, I’ll still get to go home and be with my family.”