James Hahn ready to defend Northern Trust Open title

By Bob Buttitta
Published on

LOS ANGELES -- As he waited for the playoff to start at Northern Trust Open last year, James Hahn killed some time by signing a few autographs.

As he signed the various hats and flags being pushed in his face, Hahn casually asked what all the excitement was about. One of the fans told Hahn there was going to be a playoff between Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey and some other guy. Hahn calmly handed the man's hat back to him and didn't tell him he was the "other guy."

Hahn then beat Casey and Johnson on the third playoff hole for his first PGA Tour win.

As Hahn prepares to defend his title this week at Northern Trust Open, he is still relatively unknown.

"I played in the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago and I was playing the third round with Danny Lee," Hahn said. "All the way walking up to the tee box, everyone is saying, 'Danny, good luck, Danny, good luck.' I'm like, all right, they don't know who I am.

"I live in Scottsdale now and I live like 10 minutes from the golf course and guys are calling my Danny. I kind of shrug it off. It's no big deal. It doesn't hurt my feelings one way or another that they don't recognize my face. It is what it is."

For someone who once sold shoes at Nordstrom to make a living, Hahn isn't letting his lack of fame detract from the joy he gets from playing professional golf. After toiling for years on tours around the globe, Hahn's first PGA Tour win had more value than just the $1.2 million first-place check. The win validated all his hard work and the celebration was for everyone who had believed in him along the way.

"It was more of a personal way of saying thank you to all the people that I have met and that have supported me from age 4 when I started golf all the way throughout college, on to the mini-tours and on the PGA Tour," Hahn said.

"It's meant a lot to me just to have everyone be thankful and grateful that someone that they know personally that they've been with through the low times and the high times, that we can all celebrate together. That was huge."

The rest of Hahn's 2015 season was a roller-coaster ride. On the plus side was his first trip to the Masters, although he missed the cut. He also played well enough in the FedEx Cup playoffs to get to the third of four events before being eliminated. But he also missed nine cuts and posted just one other top-10 finish, a sixth-place showing at the Greenbriers.

The 34-year-old Hahn was equipped to deal with the ups and downs.

"It took me several years to really figure out how to be successful in golf and in life, and realizing that you get what you put into it," Hahn said. "The harder you work, the luckier you got and the more rewards you got out of golf and in life.

"I feel like the more I continue to keep working hard and putting more hours than the average golfer, I feel that I can and will be successful on the PGA Tour."

Hahn's 2016 season is off to a solid start, including a sixth-place finish at the CIMB Classic. While he's won on nearly every tour he's played, he finds himself in an unique position this week.

"This will be the first time that I've had to go back as a defending champion," Hahn said. "I've already gotten multiple texts from people sending my pictures of my face on the side of buses and at shopping malls and billboards. It'll be interesting.

"I've never had that happen before, but it definitely keeps me motivated and it makes me want to go back there and win another one."

Hahn will have to beat some of the best players the world, including top-ranked Jordan Spieth and No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who is playing in the tournament for the first time.

This article was written by Bob Buttitta from Ventura County Star and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.