KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Hardy ready for next chapter after college success
Nick Hardy entered his rookie season after a stellar career at the University of Illinois
February 19, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Nick Hardy is 22nd on The 25 after a strong finish at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic. (Korn Ferry Tour)
Nick Hardy’s college coach, Mike Small, has a very pointed way of describing him.
“It was a no-brainer for me to recruit Nick,” says Small, one of the more legendary coaches in college golf from the University of Illinois.
“He loved the game of golf. He couldn’t get enough of it. And, he’s an ultimate competitor. Those are two things college coaches look for. There’s a lot of adversity in college, a lot of distractions in college since you’re going through a growth time in your life. But if you find someone who loves the game of golf and can compete on that level, it’s an asset.”
Hardy, a rookie on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 after finishing T5 at Final Stage of Q-School, became more than asset while at Illinois – he was a driving force of the team’s success.
He was an All-American. He was the Big Ten’s Player of the Year. He was a semi-finalist for some of the biggest awards in college golf. And was co-medalist at the Ben Ten Championship as an individual.
Now he’s looking to take all that learning and success while in college to the pro ranks.
“Mentally, I was excited to compete. This past year-and-a-half I’ve been really wanting this opportunity, and I felt so ready, mentally,” Hardy says of earning guaranteed starts on the Korn Ferry Tour. “I felt my game was ready and I was ready for something like this – to compete against some of the great players on the Korn Ferry Tour.”
Hardy notched a T3 finish at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at Baha Mar and sits 22nd on The 25 early in 2020. He says despite having great status on the Korn Ferry Tour this year, he didn’t change how he was preparing and just wanted to see how his game stacked up.
“The reason I got this opportunity was because I stuck to the same things and what I’ve been doing my whole life,” he says. “It’s nice there is some consistency in the things that I’ve done and with what’s taken me here.”
Hardy, who is from the Chicago area, says he takes a lot of pride being from the Midwest, and Chicago especially. As a youngster, he managed to get onto Wrigley Field via a family friend before the Chicago Cubs’ season started and fast-forward to last year, and he was throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game. His agent also manages Zach Johnson and helped arrange the opportunity for him during the week of the Evans Scholars Invitational.
“I was so nervous,” he says with a laugh. “It was right up there with my first U.S. Open. It was definitely a very nerve-wracking experience, but it was really cool. I don’t remember a lot of it because I was that nervous.”
Ah, yes – the U.S. Open. Hardy has played in three of them, including when he was just 19 where he finished T52.
He says he’s gained so much experience through his play on one of the biggest stages in the sport, and seeing how the best players in the world compete and prepare for a major was nothing but beneficial for him.
Even now, he thinks back to those weeks on occasion to draw inspiration.
“It’s what you dream of,” he says. “It’s what I dreamed of since I was little. Those experiences prepare me well for certain situations.”
Hardy’s bond with his fellow Illinois alums like Luke Guthrie, Scott Langley, Charlie Danielson and Thomas Pieters is both solid and inspiring. He competed against TOUR member Doug Ghim since they were 10 or 11 years old. Hardy says he’s seen a lot of the same faces over the last few years, and the whole squad has been going through the same trials and tribulations of golf together.
He admits college golf was not that different than how professional golf is now, because of how competitive his collegiate experience was.
“There are definitely different aspects, but I felt very prepared since I left Illinois. Going there for four years for college and being coached by the greatest coach in college golf, Coach Small, I couldn’t feel more prepared coming out of that school,” he says.
Small says Hardy’s time at the University of Illinois lived up to his billing as a can’t-miss prospect.
“His career here exemplified his intensity and desire to play the game, and he wanted to leave a legacy,” says Small, “and he did that.”
Now it’s time for Hardy to try to write the next chapter of his legacy, starting on the Korn Ferry Tour.