Welcome to the show, Mackenzie Hughes.
The Canadian and theScore-sponsored golfer made his PGA Tour tournament debut this week in Napa, Calif., at the Safeway Open – and he didn't disappoint. Hughes shot three rounds of 69 before a final-round 68, finishing tied for 13th at 13-under par. We caught up with him after his round Sunday to talk to him about his experience, which included playing with tour veteran Phil Mickelson over the weekend.
theScore: If you could describe your experience playing in your first tournament on the PGA Tour in one word, what would it be and why?
Hughes: I’d probably say ‘fun.’ The reason for that answer would be playing with Phil on the weekend, and being sort of in a position where I (was) in contention to win the golf tournament. The crowds following Phil were just massive all weekend. The combination of those two things and playing pretty good golf at the same time made for a really fun week.
theScore: What was the key in being able to play so well and so consistently in what was certainly a pressure-packed environment for you?
Hughes: I think the biggest key for me was I had the belief in myself that I knew I could do it, and that came from winning on the Web.com this year. I’ve just slowly built up more and more belief in myself, every week since throughout the middle of summer. Golf’s a funny game like that, it really comes down to a lot of believing in yourself and trusting in what you do. And that was really the biggest thing that helped me finish where I did and play the way I did. Just believing in myself and knowing that I could do it.
theScore: What was it like to play with Mickelson over the weekend?
Hughes: Phil was a fantastic guy to play with. He was super nice, chatty, we had plenty of good conversations walking down the fairways. He was really good with the crowds, he acknowledged a lot of people when they said, “Go Phil!” or anything like that. He was a really nice guy when it came to that. When I shook his hand on the 18th green on Sunday I just told him how fun it was to play with him and that he was a great guy for being so nice to me. And he told me that I was a fantastic player and that he hopes I have a really good year this year and that he enjoyed playing with me. Just hearing him tell me that, coming from a guy who’s won as many times as he has, for him to tell me that I’m a really impressive player, that gives me even more confidence than I already have after finishing as well as I did. That was probably the biggest thing I took away from him, from what he said to me, but he was a great guy to play with all weekend.
theScore: What were your expectations going into the tournament?
Hughes: I don’t know if I necessarily thought about a finish I wanted to have going into the week. I just really wanted to play well in my debut, that was really the biggest thing. I knew I could, it’s just you might sometimes put too much pressure on yourself, or you get ahead of yourself at times. But I kept thinking, “I want to have a great week,” and obviously I accomplished that.
theScore: What does an impressive 13th-place finish mean for you moving forward?
Hughes: The biggest thing is the confidence it gives me going forward. For my first PGA tournament as a member to finish the way I did, to play with Phil on the weekend and play that well, it just gives me a real sense of belonging right away. It would have been different if you missed the cut in your first tournament and maybe you struggle a bit out of the gates, maybe you question yourself a bit, but that won’t be the case going forward. So that’s the biggest thing. But the secondary thing is that these first fall events are important for me because my status throughout the year is going to always be not quite a full card, always subject to a re-order. So what this finish does for me is kind of ensure that I’m going to be able to get into some tournaments on the west coast early on in the 2017 season, which is huge. It allows me to get into a few more tournaments, a few more big tournaments, and, again, the more tournaments you can get into and have those options, the better. So it was really a good week in terms of kind of freeing me up for the fall and going forward in 2017.
theScore: Do you have any specific plans to celebrate?
Hughes: I had a couple of beers at the golf course, just enjoying the moment. Really there’s no plans to celebrate, I’m going to be flying overnight back to Charlotte, so not really much of a celebration, but I’m sure (Monday) night my fiance and I might go for a nice dinner and enjoy it. And then this Saturday we’re going to get married so that’ll be the celebration for me.
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