RALEIGH — Life is good for Chesson Hadley, on and off the golf course.
Hadley’s wife, Amanda, recently gave birth to their first child, a son named Hughes. Like his dad, he was born at Raleigh’s Rex Hospital, and Chesson said he and Amanda agreed Hughes favors him, as well.
Or as Hadley wrote on his blog, his son is “long, lanky, and has a flair for the dramatic.”
That also best describes Hadley on the golf course this year – long, and with a flair for the dramatic.
Hadley won the Rex Hospital Open in June with a final-round 64 at Wakefield Plantation for his first Web.com Tour victory. He followed that with clutch play on the final nine holes of the Web.com Tour Championship, winning again in late-September and setting himself up for his first year on the PGA Tour.
“Golf is a game of peaks and valleys,” Hadley said. “Knowing how to win is not an innate talent. It’s learned.
“For some, like Tiger Woods, it’s in their blood. But I needed to get in that position and close the deal. The emotions of winning are so new.”
Lean and lanky at 6-foot-4, Hadley averaged almost 306 yards a drive on the Web.com Tour this year and was 17th-best in driving distance. A former Georgia Tech All-America and ACC champion, he has the length to hang with the PGA Tour guys.
But as Hadley said, “It helps to make a few putts here and there.”
Hadley, 26, made a lot of putts in winning the Rex Hospital Open, especially during a memorable Sunday final round when he had a host of family and friends – “Chesson’s Cavalry,” they called themselves – cheering him on. He also had to make a few putts to hold on to his final-round lead and nail down the Web.com Tour Championship title at the TPC Sawgrass Valley Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
“I was leaking some oil,” he said of his back-nine play that day. “It’s great to have a walk-off 64 like I did at the Rex. The other was not the most fun round I’ve had. I was so glad when it was over.”
The $180,000 paycheck was the biggest of his pro career, topping his $112,500 winnings in the Rex. That’s quite a change from the days not so long ago when Hadley was playing on the eGolf Tour, paying entry fees and hoping to win back more than he paid in.
His PGA Tour card secure for 2014, Hadley could start making plans for his first year on tour, which under the new format and calendar now begins in October.
With no time to spare, Hadley tied for 72nd in the Frys.com Open in San Martin, Calif. He moved on to Las Vegas for the Shriners Hospital for Children Open and started with rounds of 65, 66 and 67 at TPC Summerlin.
Just like that, Hadley found himself in the final group on Sunday in a PGA Tour event. His playing partner: the leader, Webb Simpson.
Hadley said he was comfortable playing with Simpson, a Raleigh native and the 2012 U.S. Open champion. The two are friends and Hadley said he has “always looked up to Webb, being 2 years older and successful.”
Simpson, a Charlotte resident, took a four-shot lead into the final round and won by six. Hadley had a 1-under 70 to tie for fifth, good for $210,750, and had no complaints.
“I was 2-over early in the round and being lapped,” he said. “But I was 3-under on the last four or five holes to shoot 1-under.
“I played with a major champion and learned from him. I walked away with nothing but positive feelings from Vegas.”
Not everyone can say that, and Hadley is back at it this week. On Thursday, he will begin play in the McGladrey Classic on the Seaside Course at Sea Island, Ga.
Hadley said he has a simple goal for his rookie year on the PGA Tour: “Keep my tour card.”
“That’s really the only thing that matters,” he said. “I want to have a long career out here.”
(Follow Hadley’s rookie year at www.hadscorner.com)
Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip