Courtesy of the Web.com Tour:
Golf is the funniest of games, and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes’ rise from the brink of Q-School to PGA TOUR winner in the span of five months is the latest example of the sport’s fickleness.
Hughes, who captured the Web.com Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper in August, won The RSM Classic on the PGA TOUR in five-man playoff early Monday morning from Sea Island, Georgia.
The Canadian, who turns 26 on November 23, had a chance to win late Sunday but his birdie try slid just by (in the dark). He, along with Camilo Villegas, Blayne Barber and Henrik Norlander then returned to the par-3 17th Monday morning. All four hit less-than-stellar tee shots, leaving each with tough chips.
Hughes then nailed a 15-foot par putt from off the green, while the par-saving tries of Villegas, Barber and Norlander all missed.
It was the native of Dundas, Ontario’s ninth PGA TOUR event, and just fifth as a TOUR member after finishing in The 25 this year on the Web.com Tour.
But ask Hughes about his 2016, and, although it ended in jubilation both on the course and off (he married his longtime girlfriend Jenna Shaw on October 22 at a picturesque plantation in North Carolina), it started with questions about whether or not he would even make it through one of the Web.com Tour reshuffles.
“I was in the Monday qualifier for the LECOM Health Challenge and I missed the Monday by a few shots, then ended up getting in the next day on my number. It was a like a second chance on life there,” he said. “That was really the finish that propelled me to where we are today (he finished tied for fifth). Without that tournament, without getting in that week, who knows where I am right now. I might be back at Q-School. It’s pretty crazy to think that that’s where I was and here’s where I am now.”
Hughes missed only one cut for the rest of the Web.com Tour season after that finish, and notched his first Web.com Tour victory a few weeks later by a shot over Richy Werenski, essentially locking up his PGA TOUR card.
He had only made five cuts up to that point in the schedule and was really thinking about what his future might entail, knowing that his wedding was imminent.
It was also his second time around the Web.com Tour schedule, after capturing the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada’s money list title in 2013 and earning full status on Tour. He struggled, though, admitting he was overwhelmed by the stage.
“There was a bigger schedule, more demanding, (more travel), this and that,” he explained. “It was a big growing year for me, and then when I got back out there again this year, I kind of had a sense of knowing what to do and where to go.”
Thanks to a tie for fifth at the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco during the Web.com Tour Finals, there was no doubt Hughes was going to be able to secure spots in some of the early events during the 2016-17 TOUR season.
He kick-started his year with a bang, finishing tied for 13th at the Safeway Open, which gave him the confidence he needed for this week in Sea Island.
Napa gave me a bunch of confidence because I didn’t feel like I played my absolute best. But I finished 13th there, and I was only five away from Brendan Steele’s winning mark at 18 under. So that gave me some confidence just to tell me that if I’m just a bit sharper, if I’m a bit cleaner and I have my week with the putter, I can win out here,” he stated. “So I believed that leaving Napa, I believed that I could win out here, which is huge. That’s half the battle to winning out here, is just believing you can.
“That week in Napa was probably equally as big as the fifth-place finish I had in New York at the LECOM Health Challenge,” Hughes continued.
Hughes, who received ‘good luck’ wishes from Mike Weir, will join his countryman at Augusta National next April, as, along with the winner’s check in excess of $1 million, he also received an invite to the first major of next year.
“Augusta is where I’ve dreamed of playing since I was a teenager,” said Hughes, who visited the course in 2010 and 2011 for practice rounds. “I told myself I would never go back until I was playing. So I’m excited to go, drive down Magnolia Lane and give it a shot down there.”
From grinding on the road of the Web.com Tour, to driving down the road to one of the world’s most iconic golf courses, Hughes’ journey is just another unique one in the world of golf.