Timeout with John Hahn

Caleb Raubenolt

Golfer looks to build upon successful first year

Three years after graduating from Kent State, professional golfer Ben Curtis won the 132nd British Open, his first-ever major championship, in 2003. His former college teammate, Jon Mills, joined Curtis on the PGA Tour in 2006 and again in 2008.

But while Curtis and Mills both earned All-American honors in their careers as Flashes, neither one has the distinction of being Kent State’s most decorated freshman golfer.

John Hahn, now a sophomore, was unanimously named the Mid-American Conference Golfer and Freshman of the Year in his first year for the Flashes. The MAC has also named Hahn Golfer of the Week five times in his career, including back-to-back weeks this spring.

Before Hahn and the Flashes tee off Saturday at the Aggie Invitational in Bryan, Texas, sports reporter Caleb Raubenolt sat down with the sensational sophomore to discuss his success, his future and why he’d like to play one-on-one with LeBron James.

As a freshman last season, the MAC named you its Golfer of the Year and Freshman of the Year. How did it feel to win those awards?

Personally, it felt great. It’s funny – I always compare all of my numbers to Ben Curtis and Jon Mills. Ben won Freshman of the Year, and he won MAC Golfer of the Year one time, in his senior year. Jon Mills did the same thing, winning once. It was just funny that I got the award my freshman year, which was pretty cool, and it leaves three more years open. I was fortunate to get it, and I’m happy.

After earning this sort of recognition at such an early point in your career, do you feel any additional pressure of meeting those expectations in the future?

To be honest, I really don’t think about it that much. I just think about playing well during the year and then letting the postseason awards figure themselves out. It definitely gives me confidence, though. It hasn’t psyched me out or hasn’t got me too excited or nervous (to the point where) I subdue to the pressure. It’s motivated me to win the award more, and win it a couple times, rather than just once.

Coach Herb Page said you were able to “get the monkey off your back” by winning your first collegiate tournament at the Towson Invitational in late March. How’d that feel?

That felt awesome. It’s funny because I think you judge a player based on his wins, and whether he can win or not. I’ve finished second four times, and that was tough. But winning- there’s no other feeling like it. It’s what you practice for every day, and to finally get it done was very nice.

As of last week, you’ve been named MAC Golfer of the Week five times. In your opinion, what is it that separates you from other golfers in the conference?

That’s a tough question. I guess what I bring to the table, different than other players in the MAC, would be a sense of urgency and a little more exposure to a national stage than other guys. And maybe experience. It’s funny to say that because I’m only a sophomore, but I think I’ve played in a fair share of events where I’ve played against the best college players in the country. And I’m confident in my own game. And I sure hope that the guys on the team maybe see that a little bit and get more confident.

You mentioned experience. At what age did you begin playing?

Competitively, I’ve been playing since probably sixth or seventh grade. My dad started me up when I was like 3, though, because he’s always been in the golf business. But I really didn’t get on the national stage until I was a junior in high school. So it’s only been about four years now, but it’s been a solid four years.

And where do you look on taking your career after graduating from Kent State?

I look to take it where Ben has taken it – definitely after school, though. But that’s in the future, and I try to stay in the present, but (I’d like to do it) after school gets done. If I’m in the position to turn pro, then I will do so. I look at college as a nice stepping-stone, and I try to gather as much info from Herb as I can to further and better my game.

Did growing up in Hudson, which is located fairly close to Kent, influence your decision to come to Kent State?

Yeah, that had a huge amount to do with it. (One of the) top three reasons why I came to Kent, aside from Herb and the practice facility that was built, was that I’d be able to stay close to my family. But unfortunately my dad, who I’ve always been very close with, got transferred to Las Vegas. It’s kind of funny and ironic that I went to Kent partially to stay close to home, then my home leaves. It’s been tough, but Herb has done everything he could to fill in, and it’s been a good transition so far.

With the Masters wrapping up this weekend, is there a particular golfer who you’d like to face some day?

The obvious answer is Tiger, I’m sure it is. I’ll throw one at you, I’d like to compete against Rory McIlroy, a 19-year-old from Northern Ireland who has been professional for two years and tied for 20th at the Masters. He’s kind of the up-and-coming Tiger Woods of the new decade. Another guy I’d like to compete against is Geoff Ogilvy. I like them both – I think they have a great sense of style, and their games are the up-and-coming ones. I definitely look forward to it.

You see those celebrity charity golf events all the time. If you had to match up with anyone, who would be joining you on the golf course?

It may be because I’m a young guy, but I like LeBron a lot. I’m not sure how his golf game would be, but I think that’d be pretty cool to play with LeBron and be around him.

Contact sports reporter Caleb Raubenolt at [email protected].