As he's climbed the ranks on the Web.com Tour over the past couple seasons, theScore logo has adorned the shirt of up-and-coming Canadian golfer Mackenzie Hughes. By claiming his first Web.com Tour title on Sunday - a victory at the Price Cutter Charity Championship - Hughes secured his spot on the PGA Tour next season.
Following his life-changing victory, Hughes spoke with theScore about what that win means to him, his aspirations for the PGA Tour, and what's made him such a successful golfer.
1 You're in front all day on Sunday, then find out in the 18th fairway that Richy Werenski's made eagle in front of you to tie for the lead. What's going through your mind at that point and how did you stay in the moment?
MH If you had told me at the start of the week I was going to be tied going into the last hole with a chance to get up-and-down on a par-5 from 100 yards to win a tournament and go to the PGA Tour, I'm going to take it every time. That got me going. This is what you dream of. This is exactly where you want to be - ball's in your hand, game on the line. I just embraced the moment and told myself it was my time.
2 What's going through your head standing over the ball in the 18th fairway, 108 yards out, and then when you see it's within a foot-and-a-half?
MH I was nervous, but I was doing a good job of slowing myself down, taking deep breaths. When I got over the shot, I had a good feeling that I was going to hit a good shot. I felt good with my swing all day, for the most part. I felt comfortable taking a pretty aggressive line even though there was water all around the green. I trusted myself, and when I saw it in the air I knew it was going to be pretty good. When I saw it spin back toward the hole, I'm thinking to myself, "looks like it's within four or five feet," but from the fairway I couldn't really tell - I thought it was a little farther. Normally it's the opposite - normally it looks close and you get there and it's four or five feet out. Well, this was the good opposite. I got up there thinking I had a four- or five-footer and it was inside two feet. That was a really nice bonus.
3 Then you tap that short putt in to win the tournament. What were you feeling when that putt went in, knowing the impact it was going to have on your career and your life?
MH It was an overwhelming rush of emotions - relief, excitement, and shock - all those things were pouring over me, and I was trying to wrap my head around what I had done. It was so draining to play with the lead all day. It took so much out of me. When that final putt went in and I could just relax, it was like a thousand pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. I was so excited in that moment, but I wasn't sure what to do. I put my hands on my head, but I wasn't sure what to do at that point. I was at a loss, really. The next 30, 40 minutes it wasn't hitting me. I didn't know what just happened. It's still a little surreal to me.
4 How important is it to you to have now secured your spot on the PGA Tour?
MH That's been a goal for quite a long time. If you're playing professional golf, that's where you want to be. To be on the best tour in the world, competing against the best players in the world, gets me super excited. I can't wait to be out there and test my game against those guys. I've been out there a little bit and I think my game stacks up pretty well, and I'm only getting better as time goes on.
5 After the win, you said you couldn't wait to call your family and talk to them about what you'd accomplished. Why was that so important to you?
MH It was so important calling the people closest to me. Not only do you call them when you celebrate the good times, but you call them when you're having tough times, and you're a little bit down on yourself. I've had my share of those times as well. A few years ago, playing in the Web.com was a bit more of a struggle. It took some time to adjust, and get my footing. My family always believed in me and kept me going. They gave me that little bit of a boost. My fiancee as well, and her family, my friends - that core group of people is so important, not just when you're doing well, but when you're not doing well, too. Calling them was so rewarding because we've been through it all, and now we get to celebrate a great achievement, and really enjoy it. To enjoy it with the people I love, and the people that care about me, felt amazing.
6 What's your dream foursome of current PGA golfers?
MH Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Jason Day.
7 What golfer - past or present - has influenced you most?
MH I would say there's a couple. Tiger was the guy to watch when I was first starting to get into tournaments. At the same time, Mike Weir was winning The Masters, and had this run of great play to get to No. 3 in the world. As a Canadian growing up, that was really inspiring. It would be a combination of those two guys. But I still look up to Mike Weir as the greatest Canadian golfer of all time. I'd love to build a career like he's built.
8 If you could only have one - win a major championship, or get to No. 1 in the world rankings - which would you pick?
MH Probably No. 1 in the world rankings. There'd be a bigger body of work to get to No. 1 in the world rankings, versus winning a major. Winning a major would be great, but that doesn’t guarantee you other success. But if you're No. 1 in the world, you've clearly played well over a long period of time and won multiple tournaments. I think that would be a longer measure of success and good play.
9 What was the moment when you knew that golf was more than just a passion for you - that you could compete at the highest level and play alongside the best golfers in the world?
MH When I got to college and played at Kent State, that's when I started to get into that mindset of "If I take this really seriously, and I'm really committed to doing this, maybe it's something I do the rest of my life." The moment where everything clicked was when I won my first Canadian Amateur in 2011. That was a pretty big stepping stone for me. I followed that up the next year, and had some good finishes in other tournaments. At that point I was really into that mindset of "This is what I'm going to do. This is how I'm going to make my living."
10 What advice would you give to a young golfer that told you they too have aspirations of making the PGA Tour?
MH Be true to yourself. It's very easy to see other golfers and think, "This guy's had better success than I do. I need to be more like him. I need to swing more like him. I need to putt more like him." There's no right or wrong way to do it. If someone had told Jim Furyk to change his swing, he probably wouldn't have made the PGA Tour. But he had the right people around him, he got the right advice, and he never changed what got him there. I think that's so important - to trust in what you're doing, and believe in your own abilities.