James Hahn’s strategy Sunday in the final round was a little unorthodox, but it proved successful as the 30-year-old Californian captured his first Nationwide Tour victory at the Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield.
The win was not easy. He had to go to a sudden-death playoff with Scott Parel. Both parred No. 18 and then Hahn won the tournament with a birdie on No. 9.
While playing in Raleigh, his mind was in California for most of the afternoon, preparing for a U.S Open qualifying round Monday.
“Honestly, today I just felt like it was a practice round for the U.S. Open. I was hitting shots that I thought I would hit” Monday, Hahn said. “I really came in here not expecting to win and that freed me up just to play.”
Getting to the playoff caused him to miss his original flight back to California, but he was very appreciative of the championship he won.
“I’ve got a flight to catch, but right now there is nowhere I’d rather be,” Hahn said. “This week is one of the best weeks I’ve ever had in my life. To be out here and to be considered a Nationwide Tour champion definitely has a good ring to it.”
Hahn had solid rounds of 67, 68, 69, and 67. Sunday he shot 32 on the front nine and got to 13 under and into a share for the lead with a birdie at No. 13. He then parred in and waited as three other twosomes finished.
Parel lipped out a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to finished at 13 under, and B.J. Staten just missed the playoff when his 8-footer also hit the hole and stayed out.
“Gave myself chances,” said Parel, who also was going for his first Nationwide title. “The week was great, my best finish out here. I played solid and hit the ball great. Just didn’t make enough putts.”
Jin Park, who tied for third at 12 under, made a great charge through the weekend, shooting 10-under for the final two rounds.
On the first playoff hole, a 440-yard par-4, Parel hit to about 15 feet, just outside the putt he missed in regulation on No. 18. Hahn short-sided the green to the right but chipped up close to halve the hole.
They went to No. 9, a 577-yard, par-5 with a creek in front of the green. Parel laid up and hit a wedge to about 18 feet. Hahn tried to go for the green from 245 yards out but came up short and right of the green. He then hit a great chip shot to within just a foot of the hole to set up the winning birdie.
“I hit that hybrid earlier in the day, but it was an awkward shot,” Hahn said. “But then I hit as good a chip as I could and had the toughest 1-foot putt I’ve ever had.”
Hahn also saluted the work of his caddie, former Wakefield Junior champion Matt Lawson, who just graduated from UNC Wilmington
“He really kept me in the game, half this trophy is his,” Hahn said.
“I called the clubhouse to see if I could get on a bag, and it was just the luck of the draw I got a very good golfer,” Lawson said. “I didn’t know James at all. But he can really be great because he has a great attitude; he stays positive.”
With the Rex championship in his pocket, Hahn is focusing on getting into the U.S. Open.
“I’ve dreamt about the U.S. Open my whole life,” Hahn said. “In my hometown, San Francisco, Olympic Club, a course I’ve played a lot, and it would be my first U.S. Open.”