Ancaster, Ont. – Many years ago, probably back when Adam Hadwin was in diapers, Dan Halldorson was asked if he was proud of being the low Canadian in the national championship.
“That's a little like being the tallest midget, isn't it?” Halldorson asked.
There is certainly a double-edged sword to being the best in a subset of the overall package. On one hand, it's an honour to be the top Canadian. On the other, you'd rather be the best of the best.
For the past two years, Adam Hadwin has been that "tallest midget", a two-time winner of the Rivermead Cup, presented to the low Canuck at the RBC Canadian Open. The first year he won it at St. George's, he was thrilled, and rightly so. The kid from the Canadian Tour bested the likes of Mike Weir and Stephen Ames.
Then last year, Hadwin went into the final round just a shot behind leader Bo Van Pelt. He ended up tied for fourth and the Rivermead was a mere consolation prize, like they give the losers on game shows. Not that he wasn't proud, but Hadwin was clearly after bigger prizes.
And despite a mediocre season on the Web.com Tour, Hadwin has once again found the magic to play well on the biggest stage in Canadian golf. On Thursday, he posted a four-under 66 to lead the boys with the Maple Leaf on their bags.
“Whether it's the fact that I've got a bunch of people watching, and if that helps me out, I don't know,” said Hadwin, trying to explain his Canadian magic. “But it seems every time we hit the end of July, I kind of springboard my game back into shape.”
It didn't look like that when Hadwin arrived at Hamilton. He started his week by shooting 40 on the opening nine holes of the Monday pro-am but gradually found his game in subsequent practice sessions leading up to Thursday, including a three and a half hour on Wednesday sitting he called a stripe show.
But more important, there was a swagger to his game again on Thursday, a brash, smug attitude towards the golf course. He was playing well and he knew it.
“I felt like I was playing with a little bit of swagger that I haven't had in a few months,” said Hadwin.
To these eyes, that swagger is what separates Hadwin from a lot of young Canadian pros. He's good and he isn't afraid to show it. He's not an arrogant person, but he is arrogant about his golf game.
“It's a bit of cockiness, to be honest,” said Hadwin. “And it's been missing for a while. I don't know if anyone was out there when I made the putt on 16. I haven't walked in a putt like that for a while. I mean it was a good three feet away, and I walked it in. That's just how good I feel with the golf ball right now.”
Hadwin's play in this event hasn't yet given him the fan appeal of a Mike Weir or even a David Hearn or Graham DeLaet. He doesn't have an army – Hadwin's Horde? – but he is getting noticed by fans who are starting to respect his play and ability.
“If they follow me, they follow me,” Hadwin shrugged. “It's still the same game. I still gotta do what I gotta do. It's a long week, so they'll have time.”
Three more days of fine play might get him more of attention but a win, which he really wants, would push him to another level all together. He fully believes he can do that and why not? There's nothing saying the "tallest midget" can't also be the overall champ.