James Hahn was once known as a fun-loving PGA Tour player who did a great version of the Gangnam-style dance at the Tour stop in Phoenix. Maybe you didn't know his name, but you knew his dance game.
Then Hahn won his first PGA Tour event at the Northern Trust Open last February and earned the two-year Tour exemption that came with it. Hahn beat Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a playoff and won $1.2 million. He raised the trophy with the storied Riviera Country Club in the background, and that would be his new claim to fame.
To some folks, sure.
He's still not a household name, and he's even confused for others on Tour.
"I would say I do get recognized a little bit from the win, but just to give you insight into what my life is like, I played in the Waste Management Open in Phoenix last week, and I was playing in the third round with Danny Lee and all the way walking up to the teebox, people were saying, 'Good luck, Danny. Good luck, Danny,'" Hahn said on a conference call Tuesday.
"All right, they don't know who I am and my hometown is Scottsdale and I live here and they call me Danny? I shrugged it off. It doesn't hurt my feelings one way or another that they don't recognize my face. Danny had a great year last year and made the President's Cup team and got a lot of publicity. He's a high-ranked golfer. To be associated with a guy who is very successful in the game isn't a bad thing."
Hahn's humble nature and jovial ways aren't a bad thing, either. His celebrations will be on display when he defends his title Feb. 18-21 at Riviera Country Club. At the famous 16th hole in Phoenix -- a celebratory hole like no other in golf -- Hahn dropped and did 10 pushups last week. He joked that people came to see his gun show.
His game, however, is no joke. Hahn shot a second-round 65 to take the lead at the Waste Management Open last week but finished tied for 17th. He's ranked 100th in the world, and he's already won nearly $500,000 this season. It's a far cry from when his career was so stalled that he became a shoe salesman. He was good at selling women luxury heels, too.
Much has changed in the last year since Hahn's victory at Riviera. Hahn and his wife, Stephanie, had their first child, Kailee, not long after his win. He punched a ticket to Augusta by winning at Riviera and played in the Masters for the first time but missed the cut. He has one top-10 finish this young season.
The win at Riviera was a springboard for confidence. He's still cherishing and enjoying that rainy day last year, and the opportunity to let his loved ones celebrate it, too.
"Winning is a big deal on any level," Hahn said. "That's what we work hard for and strive for, all the hours we put in. ... It meant a lot to my family and friends and especially my caddie, Mark Urbanek, to ride out the entire year together. It was just more of a personal way of saying thank you to all the people I've met who have supported me from age 4 when I started in golf all the way to college (at Cal) and the mini tours and the PGA Tour."
A couple of weeks ago, Hahn was scheduled to play the role of amateur golfer with a group of kids at Griffith Park in a prank. Midway through the round he would start hitting professional shots and surprise them. That event was canceled since he had to finish his final round in the Farmers Insurance Open that Monday because of weather.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and so many others could never pull off that kind of awesome prank, since they're so recognizable.
There could be a day soon that Hahn won't be able to, either. His face is now on advertisements at the Santa Monica Place Mall and on the side of Big Blue Buses around town. More will go up, too.
"I've already got multiple texts of people sending me pictures of my face on the side of shopping malls and billboards, and I've never had that happen before," Hahn said. "It keeps me motivated. It makes me want to go back there and win another one. I'm really looking forward to getting that opportunity."
This is the first time Hahn will defend a title. When he was on the Canadian Tour he won an event in Edmonton, but he made it on the Web.com Tour before he could defend. And he wasn't able to try to defend his Web.com Tour win, either. Now, he'll have a multitude of events, interviews and obligations as the champion.
"I'm really excited but a little bit nervous for the event," Hahn said. "It's a new experience that I'll have next week."
This article was written by Jill Painter from Los Angeles Daily News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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