There comes a time in every endeavor when a guy just has to take a step backward and tell himself enough is enough.
So, John Hahn changed the game plan. Thinking technique is out; hitting targets is in.
Hahn, the former three-time All-American at Kent State who spent most of his childhood in Hudson, reached that conclusion in late April while playing on the Challenge Golf Tour, the European equivalent to the Web.com Tour.
It is an attitude that Hahn will take into this week’s 41st annual Memorial Tournament, otherwise known as the Tournament That Jack Built.
Hahn, who has spent the past 30 months playing with mixed results overseas, received a sponsor’s exemption to the Memorial, which begins Thursday at Jack Nicklaus’s Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin. It will be his first competitive appearance in the U.S. since playing in the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.
There is a sermon that instructors and coaches have preached long before the emergence of the Bob Rotellas of the sports psychology world.
“Play golf, not golf swing,” KSU coach Herb Page said. “Don’t make it complicated. The game is complicated enough. Don’t complicate it further. Just go out and play.”
Missing about six cuts in a row can cause a guy to call an audible.
“I’ve made it simple,” Hahn said in a telephone interview on Monday after playing nine holes at Muirfield with Scott Langley. “Instead of thinking more about technique, I am thinking about hitting targets. I’ve simplified things, gone back to the basics.”
Falling into the technique syndrome is an easy trap to fall into, especially when playing professionally.
“You look at your peers, say a guy like Henrik Stinson, and you see how successful he is and you tell yourself, ‘Hey, maybe I should be swinging like that,’?” Hahn said. “The next thing you know you are working on that technique instead of what has worked for you in the past.”
Hahn’s back to the basics approach paid off almost immediately in Europe. In early May he tied a course record of 63 held by John Daly during the first round of the Turkish Airline Challenge in Belek, Antalya, Turkey, and ultimately finished in a tie for seventh. The following week he finished 14th in the Montecchia Open by Lyoness in Padova, Italy. Those finishes raised his confidence level.
Playing overseas has its pros and cons. Hahn, currently ranked 343rd in the Official World Golf Rankings, believes the pros bury the cons.
“It makes you a lot tougher, mentally,” he said. “When you miss the cut and you’re in a foreign country, there is nowhere to go. You can’t go home. You don’t know many people. So, you just have to figure out a way to get through it and move on.”
Hahn does not see the Memorial as a defining moment in his career, unless, of course, he wins.
“It is a great opportunity for me, for sure,” he said. “This is one of the best events in the world. I expect to play well. I am sure I will take a lesson from it. But, it is just another step. I am leaving Monday for Jacksonville to play in the Open qualifier.”
Life goes on.
Hahn, 27, estimates he has played in more than 45 countries and logged more than 450,000 air miles in the past 30 months, spending about 28 weeks a year overseas. He said Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland are his favorite ports of call.
Hahn remains the same person to the people who watched him grow up in Hudson and playing junior and collegiate golf. He has the same positive — confident, but not cocky — attitude and the same outing personality, the same sharp sense of humor and same level of politeness. He now calls Palm Beach Gardens home.
He will have about 50 family and friends following him this week. His father, John, a Titleist sales rep working out of Las Vegas, has rented a home in Muirfield.
“That will be a big, big difference,” Hahn said. “Usually, people don’t even know where I’m playing and there’s no one in the crowd following me. But, this is a chance for my family and friends to see me play. I’m looking forward to it.”