Today, 34-year old, Korean-American James Hahn won his second PGA Tour golf tournament. It was the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. He defeated Roberto Castro on the first extra hole. Hahn finds a way to make it interesting. His first PGA Tour win was last year at the Northern Trust Open at the famed Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where he won in a three-man playoff against Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey by making a 25-foot putt on the second extra hole.
Six foot, one inch tall and 180 pounds, James Hahn has one of the best golf swings on the PGA Tour. But it wasn’t putting him on easy street. In fact, his pro golf journey has been anything but a Cinderella story until last year.
Hahn turned pro in 2003 and bounced around on minor golf tours in the world until 2012. Things got so low for him that he was selling shoes in a department store and thinking of quitting pro golf. But family members and others encouraged him on.
Right now, his game is looking as good as gold. But you never would have thought that going into the tournament this week. Hahn missed the cut in the last eight PGA Tour tournaments in which he competed. You hardly ever hear of such a turn-a-round in pro golf as that.
Roberto Castro had the lead in the closing holes Sunday until he bogeyed the fairly easy 16th and 17th holes. Hahn now had a one shot lead. Playing right in front of Castro, Hahn played two good shots on the long, narrow, difficult, par-four 18th to get safely on the green. But he left his 40-foot birdie putt six+ feet short and missed it for a three-putt bogey and a tie with Castro.
Castro then drove into the right rough on 18th, the most difficult hole on the course. He played a super shot to the front left fringe. Like Hahn, Castro then left his 40-foot first putt short about six feet. But he made the second putt for a par to tie Hahn. They had to ward off some great players: Justin Rose was one shot back in third place, and Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler were another shot back, tied in fourth place.
Phil Mickelson was quoted by the media this week about how good he thinks Quail Hollow CC is. It will be the venue for the PGA Championship, the fourth and final major, next year. But they are going to make a few small changes to the course.
Anyway, the first extra hole was the difficult 18th. Hahn drove brilliantly in the narrow fairway with a seven iron to the green for his second shot. Castro had been missing this fairway to the right; but this time he missed left, where you can’t go. A very narrow creek runs alongside the fairway on the left, and Castro’s ball barely found it and submerged. Castro finished the hole with a bogey. Hahn played safely to the right side of the green again, leaving himself with a similar putt as on his 72nd hole. He again left this one short and left about five feet. But he drilled it in the center and raised his arms in victory.
Hahn seems like a good guy. With a golf swing like that, I’m a fan of his. I hope he has many more victories on the PGA Tour so he doesn’t have to go back to the low wages of selling shoes.