Golfer Hahn stays cool under pressure

Brad Tansey

John Hahn loves pressure.

As a kid, the senior golfer always wanted to be “that guy” to hit the winning shot. Not because he thinks he’s the best, but because he is the guy to put in the most work.

Hahn comes from a family of athletes who he said helped mold him into the calm and collected golfer he is today. That cool attitude could land Hahn on the PGA Tour someday.

Sports reporter Brad Tansey sat down with Hahn to discuss the finer points of the game he loves.

BT: What is the most difficult aspect to golf?

JH: I would say probably the mental game. The mental game is where it takes a lot of maturity to understand what you can and can’t do out on a golf course. It’s all about being in situations and really understanding how you react to them. I’m fortunate enough to have been in a lot of playoffs, so I think I understand how I deal with pressure.

BT: How do you deal with pressure?

JH: (Laughs) I just love pressure. I was always raised by my dad to appreciate and relish in the situation, and just by watching professional sports. My grandpa played professional baseball, my dad played college golf and college baseball and he really understood how to react in a certain situation you are presented. Myself, from the time I was young, I just liked being the guy to hit the shot or take the shot. I’ve always looked forward to it because I knew I put in the reps, not because I was the best guy.

BT: How do you stay focused on the golf course?

JH: Boy, it’s pretty tough. I would say that’s the biggest challenge I’ve had this year, so far. Being a senior, it’s going to sound funny, but I’ve been through the gauntlet. I’ve been in every situation you can imagine. This year, this is the best team we’ve ever had, and my focus is a huge part of the way that I play. I think if I’m focused out on the range and practicing, that leads into focus into golf (matches). And how do I do it? If I truly — it’s going to sound cliché — but if I truly can approach each shot like it’s a new challenge or something new. That’s the best way to do it.

BT: How do you individually prepare before each tournament mentally and physically?

JH: Mentally, I think it’s about getting your sleep and rest and eating properly. Just making sure you kind of cross the T’s and dot the I’s. In the week leading up to (the tournament), physically, I think it’s to a certain point understanding the golf course and what certain shots you are going to need at that golf course. If you really can pinpoint the basics and make sure the basics are really intact and your fundamentals are in place, then there isn’t a golf course out there that you can’t handle.

BT: What do you think the best part of your game is?

JH: I think driving the ball straight and putting inside of six, eight feet are the two best parts of my game. My entire life, I’ve never driven (the ball) that long, but I’ve probably driven it a little bit above average distance wise, and I’ve always hit it really, really straight. Putting inside six, eight feet, it’s funny; there will be weeks like our first tournament of the year at Minnesota, I played pretty well. I think I won by a couple shots, and I don’t remember missing a putt inside of eight feet at that golf tournament. I think that the way you play your most efficient golf is when you don’t miss putts that you aren’t supposed to miss.

BT: What is the weakest part of your game?

JH: I would say I’m still pretty weak in the wind. Growing up, I always trapped the ball and played it off my back right foot and kind of hit hooks. What I’ve done in college is tried to stay more on top of the ball, stay flatter and kind of hit the ball lower rather than spinning it up into the wind because when you do, it just really going offline.

BT: How important is it to have a good drive?

JH: That’s a big thing I’ve been thinking about the last week after I played poorly at Northwestern. The importance of a good drive is paramount in order to score. There is no way around it. You cannot hit the ball in the rough and the woods and score.

BT: What makes putting so difficult?

JH: First of all, I think too many people are unsure whether they are going to make the putt or not. I think with myself, I have blind confidence and belief that I’m going to make every putt I look at. It sounds funny; you have to verbalize it to yourself, and you actually have to have yourself say, “I’m making this putt,” to make yourself believe it.

Contact Brad Tansey at [email protected].