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'Simple kid' hopes PGA Tour membership does not change him

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VANCOUVER - After spending years to complete his primary mission in life, Adam Hadwin is embarking on a new one.

Having secured his PGA Tour card for the first time in his career, the 26-year-old Abbotsford, B.C., golfer aims to keep it for as long as possible.

"(Earning the card) has been a goal of mine for a long time, ever since I really picked up the game seriously and started playing junior and other events," he said. "My whole goal going to school (at University of Louisville) was not necessarily to further my education or to get a good job. It was to play competitive golf against the best players in college and go to a good golf program and then turn pro.

"Since I've been a professional for the last five years, I've wanted to be at the top level, and I think everybody dreams of the PGA Tour and wants their PGA Tour card, because that's where the best players play week in and week out. To think that I've got my opportunity starting next (season) to play against the best players in the world week in and week out and hopefully go up and play well and be a mainstay on Tour for years to come, it's a really exciting feeling."

Hadwin's new quest began Thursday at the Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind., the first of four Web.com Tour playoff tournaments. He hopes a strong Web.com playoff showing will kick-start his effort to play in as many PGA events as possible under a complicated reshuffle system that determines entry eligibility, based on money winnings.

He secured his PGA Tour card Sunday by finishing in a tie for second place at the Portland Open with a 13-under-par 271 total. The showing in Oregon left him fourth on the Web.com Tour money list, from which the top 25 advanced to the PGA Tour.

As for PGA-related goals, Hadwin said he has yet to make them. He wants to finish well in the Web.com playoffs first and then set targets.

Hadwin's expectations got "out of control" in 2013, when he struggled on the Web.com Tour and never came close to earning his long-coveted PGA Tour card.

In 2012, he missed out on a regular PGA Tour berth by one stroke as he placed outside of the Web.com Tour's top 25. But instead of providing more motivation, the near-miss led to misery as Hadwin wondered what might have been and finished a "terrible" 74th on the Web.com money list. This season, he adopted a different approach, lowering his expectations.

"Let's say I tried to be too perfect," he said. "I've taken on a much more realistic goal. Coming into this year, I just tried to have a little bit more fun with it and enjoy myself on the golf course. The one thing I really wanted to do was to play more (by making the cut at each tournament.) I was trying to do a little bit too much on Thursday and Friday last year. This year, I just wanted to go out to get to the weekend — and play on the weekend."

The attitude adjustment helped him earn his first Web.com Tour victory, in Santiago, Chile in March. The win is among his six top-10 finishes and a trio of top-three results this season. However, he hopes the chance to earn millions on the PGA Tour will not change him.

"I'm very happy with the way things have been going here," he said. "I'm a pretty simple kid. Honestly. I was born on the Prairies (in Moose Jaw, Sask.,) and I didn't grow up with much. My parents did the best they could. They gave us everything that we ever wanted, but I don't really need much, and I'm not looking for much.

"Obviously, my life's going to get a little bit crazier playing on the PGA Tour. The more you play, the more people want to talk to you, and the more people want to see you and stuff like that. But I just want to worry about going on the course and taking care of my business."

The golf business has been part of Hadwin's life since the day he was born. His father Gerry Hadwin, a longtime CPGA professional, has had considerable input in his son's career.

"I've always hit balls and I've always been around the game," said Hadwin. "So it's great to have (my father) as a support system and somebody to help my game and talk with."

Meanwhile, two other key support crew members, B.C.-based coach Brett Saunders and caddie Joe Cruz, are moving to the PGA with him.

"I've worked with (Saunders) for 11 or 12 years now," said Hadwin. "He's the only (coach) I've worked with. … He's gotten me to the next level of every step. Every time that I ever need to improve, we sit down and we figure out what we need to do, and we get it done. He's the only one that I've trusted with my game thus far."

Hadwin is also expected to continue working with Vancouver-based golf strength and conditioning specialist Jason Glass, whom he credits for improving his balance, stability and mobility under a training program that has seen him add about 20 pounds of muscle.

Off the course, Hadwin, who still lives in Abbotsford when he is not away competing or training, does not plan to change his way of life drastically, either. Although several Canadian pro golfers have adopted year-round U.S. bases, he plans to continue living in the Vancouver area in summer and Phoenix in winter.

"I've always loved (Vancouver)," he said. "I find it really hard to leave every time I come back. It's always one of my favourite cities just to be in. The weather over the summer is perfect. It doesn't get as hot as it does down south. It's usually perfect golfing weather, and there's lots of great golf courses."

He will make his debut as a full-fledged PGA Tour member at the Silverado Resort in Napa, Calif., site of the upcoming season opener, the Frys.com tournament, in early October. Hadwin finished tied for seventh in the 2011 Frys.com event, but said success at this year's tourney will be more difficult, because he is beginning the battle to retain his PGA Tour card.

Scott Simmons, Golf Canada's CEO, is also excited about Hadwin's new status.

Simmons believes that Hadwin and 27-year-old Merritt, B.C., native Roger Sloan, who also earned full-fledged PGA Tour membership for the first time in his career Sunday in Portland by placing 24th on the Web.com Tour money list, can have a "huge" impact on young Canadian golfers.

Golf Canada strives to to ensure that young players do not fall through the development "cracks." But, Simmons added, when homegrown "heroes" like Hadwin and Sloan excel on golf's top stage, they can spark the same kind of participation boom that young Canadian stars like Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil and Eugenie Bouchard have in tennis.

"It means a lot for Canadian golf over and above our program," said Simmons.

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