Thursday, April 9, 2015

Letter to My Younger Self - By James Hahn

Dear James,

Over the next 25 years, you’ll go through struggles and triumphs that you can’t even imagine right now. From a shoe salesman at Nordstrom to a PGA Tour winner, I’m here to help walk you through that journey.

You’re about eight years old, growing up in Alameda, California, watching golf greats like Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Chi-Chi Rodriguez. You can grow up and be like them one day. Everything in life is attainable. You can do whatever you want and be whomever you want to be. Keep dreaming big but know that there are hundreds of thousands of kids with the same aspirations as you. Some are even more dedicated to their craft than you are — so work harder.

As you grow up and become a successful junior golfer, you’ll hear some people say, “You’re one of the greatest junior golfers I’ve ever seen. You’ll win multiple PGA Tour events and The Masters one day.” Don’t listen to them. Some of those same people praising you will be the ones telling you to get a real job and give up on golf years later when you struggle on mini tours. They will be essential in your motivation to succeed.

There are a lot of haters in life. For the personality that you have, it means more to you to prove someone wrong than it means to prove someone right. Use what they say as motivation to do better. It’s a blessing in disguise. Those people will play a role in you eventually becoming a champion.

In college, you’ll have a lot of regret about going to the University of California, Berkeley. Poor you, huh? To be able to get an education at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. But seriously … yes, there will be scholarship offers from other Division-I schools with better golf programs like Duke, Michigan and Arizona State. Yes, you wanted to venture out but instead you’re only 20 minutes away from home. However, you will learn that Cal is the best place for you. The friendships you form there will be lifelong bonds that are irreplaceable.

Also, while you’re there, please learn the true meaning of sacrifice. Making more sacrifices in college will make things a lot easier later in life. Partying and hanging out with friends is all fine, but figure out early in your college life when enough is enough. Just because you feel like you deserve better does not mean that your effort on the greens should be lacking.

In your senior year, you’ll decide to quit golf. As shocking as it sounds, this will be one of the best decisions of your life. Once you take a step away from the sport, you will realize how lucky you are to have had that opportunity. Don’t do it any other way. There will be a lot of people who will give positive and negative advice regarding the decision. Believe in yourself. This is what you need to do to get your inspiration back.

After college there will be a weird period in your life where you do a bit of everything, from working at an advertising agency to selling shoes at Nordstrom. It’s not how you envisioned it but trust me, it’s all for the better in the long run. Only thing is, please refrain from trying to morph into Hans and Franz with your friends. Trying to bench press 300 pounds will not improve your golf game; it will only blow out your shoulder and result in an injury that will plague you the rest of your career.

In 2006, your golf itch will return. A job opportunity at a local golf course in the Bay Area will allow you to work on your game, play on mini tours and eventually work your way to the Korean PGA Tour.

You’ll do fairly well over there and have about $8,000 in your bank account before entering the Canadian Tour. Your time on this tour will be the most pivotal time of your career. Before we get into that, let me tell you something that will one day save your career: be stingy. Being frugal earlier on in your career will help you more than you’ll ever know. It’s OK to have one pair of jeans. It’s OK to have one pair of shoes. It’s OK to stay at cheap hotels. When everyone else on the tour is out ordering Patron shots all night, opt to babysit your beer. You didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in your mouth, so you can’t afford to keep up with these people who did.