Mackenzie Hughes still gets the chills when he arrives at the Plantation Course in Sea Island, Ga. He’ll no doubt feel them again as he arrives this week at the scene of his first PGA Tour victory back in 2016.
“I get some extra good vibes for sure,” he said while on his way to the course to begin preparations for this year’s event, “and you can never get enough of those in golf.”
Those good sensations came when Hughes emerged from a five-man playoff to cap a wire-to-wire victory in his rookie season. He and many others figured it would be the start of something big.
While he’s certainly been a solid player since that victory, there haven’t been any more wins just yet. Hughes is still working to find some consistency in his swing and overall game. It’s been brilliant at times, and also frustrating on occasion, as the work continues.
“I have fond memories of that win no matter how I play,” he stated. “That week changed my life. But I think I expected more of myself the first few years. Now I know that I can’t compare that week to any other.”
There’s a definite maturity to Hughes’ words. Now entering his fourth season on the PGA Tour, he’s gained perspective and patience. He’s been through the highs and the lows, winning and also missing cuts. He’s come to realize that one week – or even one shot doesn’t – make or break a season.
This year it’s been a slow start as he’s made just one cut in five appearances. But he’s keeping things in check.
“It’s disappointing for sure,” he admitted. “I don’t feel like I’m playing terribly, but it’s certainly not the way I wanted to start the season off.
“I know I have a long year ahead of me so I’m not really all that worried. I had a slow start last year too.”
A year ago he ended up 98th on the FedEx Cup list with two top-10s as well as 10 missed cuts in 25 tournaments. The good and bad seemed to come in bunches. He missed four straight cuts early in the year and then followed them up with a tie for 13th at the Valspar and then a runner-up finish at Puntacana. A tie for eighth at the Charles Schwab Cup and a tie for 14th at the RBC Canadian Open at home in Hamilton, Ont., came on the heels of two missed cuts.
This season, Hughes is still trying to find the right groove with his swing. It doesn’t seem far away, but it’s not quite there yet either.
“I haven’t felt great with my swing,” said the two-time Canadian Amateur champ. “It seems like if it’s not one thing it’s something else. There doesn’t seem to be one big problem.”
Hughes still works with Team Canada coach Derrick Ingram who was planning to be on site at this week’s stop to spend time him and see if they can fine-tune matters.
Where Hughes has made good strides is in his mental outlook, an area that used to cause him problems. He’s trying to stay positive even when the ball doesn’t always go where it’s told. In past years, the Dundas, Ont.,-product could fall into the trap of getting down on himself which only added to his problems.
“I’m doing a pretty good job of the mental side,” said Hughes. “Last week got to me a lot more than any other week for a while and I know that just makes getting out of the funk that much harder. But I’m very self-aware, I think 90 per cent of my performance on any given day is the way I think and talk to myself.”
After this week, Hughes, his wife Jenna and two-year-old son, Kenton, will get some down time to enjoy U.S. Thanksgiving and Christmas back in Canada. Then he’ll be back to work, and like every player, looking to find that magic once again.