TORONTO - There were plenty of new experiences for Mackenzie Hughes in his rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2016-17, but he's set to experience another first as a sophomore, entering this week's tournament as the defending champion for the first time in his pro career.
"It's always a great feeling coming back to a tournament that you've had great success at and won," Hughes told theScore Tuesday ahead of the RSM Classic. "It's certainly a memory that sticks out in a large way for me. ... First PGA Tour win. It's going to be pretty exciting to be one of the guys that people are talking about. I have a couple of extra obligations this week."
Hughes claimed his maiden title last November on a cool Monday morning in Sea Island, Ga., by draining an 18-foot putt from just off the green on the third playoff hole.
"It's fun. It's one of those things you hope you get used to, where you start to do stuff like this every year, coming back to a tournament and defending. But more importantly just great memories at the golf course and looking forward to having a great week."
While defending on the PGA Tour is certainly foreign for the 26-year-old, trying to go back-to-back in a tournament isn't. In 2012, Hughes won the Canadian Amateur for the second straight year, winning by one shot at Camelot Golf and Country Club just outside of Ottawa.
"That's definitely something to draw on," said the Dundas, Ontario, native. He added, "I think the expectation of I need to defend or I need to win can sometimes hold you back. So, I usually don't try and get too much into that frame of mind, I just try to go out there and play some good golf and just kind of see where that puts me. If I do my own thing, and play good golf ... I usually like my chances."
Hughes recently became a father for the first time when his wife Jenna gave birth to Kenton Robert Hughes in late October, and with the RSM Classic ending the fall portion of the 2017-18 campaign, the second-year PGA Tour pro is looking forward to the offseason.
"I think it'll involve a lot of late-night feedings ... that's just a hunch I have," he said. "But it'll be fun to just have that time off, and the time to really spend with him and my wife ... to be able to help out as much as I can. I'm really excited for that, and being a dad."
While the golfer is uncertain when he'll resume his playing schedule in 2018, he's firm on his objectives for next season.
"I just want to get better. I want to improve as a golfer, and I think I'm on the right track to do that. I've got great people around me helping me do that. So, I'm looking forward to the follow-up season."
As for his immediate goals this week in Georgia:
"All I'm trying to do is focus on the things I can control, and if I do those things - like I did last year - I'll have a pretty good chance come Sunday."