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Happy Presidents Day, everyone! As we take a day to remember great men in American history, I thought we’d take a day to look back at a young professional player and wonder how great he could have been in college.
Jhared Hack won the Western Amateur in the summer of 2007. On his way to winning that prestigious event, he defeated Dustin Johnson in the semifinals before defeating Alex Prugh, 1 up, in the final match. In the fall of 2007, Hack was a coveted incoming freshman at Central Florida; however, his potential wasn’t seen for too long as he decided to leave school and turn pro after only one semester.
I caught up with Hack recently and asked him some questions about his past, present and future:
Question: Your freshman year was the same as Rickie Fowler’s, in 2007. You two played at the Isleworth Collegiate, which always had a strong field and great talent. What was it like for you to play an event like that your freshman year?
Answer: It was great, with a great field. The food spread was awesome for a college guy, and it’s Isleworth, so you get to check out the exclusive clubhouse and practice on a driving range with Tiger Woods on the other side of it. It was a great tournament, with a great atmosphere, and the leaderboard was really cool, with something you don’t get to see at a lot of events.
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Q: As a kid coming in to college, was Isleworth an intimidating place to go play early in your college career?
A: Not really. You try to take every tournament as you and just the golf ball, and you just go out to have fun, but it is definitely the best college event we played in. It was the best experience, as far as people watching you and having fun as a tournament atmosphere.
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Q: I was there when you beat Dustin Johnson and Alex Prugh at the Western Amateur. There were a lot of comparisons to you and Rickie Fowler when you both entered college the same year. Are you where you want to be in your career, or where you thought you’d be?
A: I have definitely learned a lot the past few years. I have definitely become more consistent, but I think I need to start believing in myself a little more. I know I have the game to be out there. I just have to play well at the right times, and so far I haven’t quite done that. I’ve learned that I can win, and that’s a huge step out here as a pro.
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Q: What are some things you have learned?
A: That you have to play your own game. It doesn’t matter who you are playing with. I learned a lot when I played against Dustin (at the 2007 Western Amateur) that even when he was hitting it 60 yards by me off the tee, you have to stick with your game. I think the first year or so when I was out here as a pro I was trying to play everybody else’s game, which was just to bomb it, and it’s just not me. I have to stick to my game plan and then stay patient. Look at a guy like Mark Wilson, who has won twice on the PGA Tour already this year. He knows and plays his own game, and it certainly has paid off for him.
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Q: Any doubts or regrets about leaving college early, especially after only one semester?
A: Not really. I knew I wanted to play professional golf, and it came down to, was I going to learn more about the game staying at school, or was I going to learn more coming out here as a pro? I have learned a lot, and I don’t think you can trade any of the experiences that I have had. I have gotten to go out of the country three or four times last year to go play. I have gotten to go play in some solid events and have learned a lot. I have no regrets.
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Q: Does anyone ever ask you what it was like beating Dustin Johnson? Does anyone ever ask what your most memorable accomplishment was as either an amateur or a pro?
A: My friends and I talk about it every now and then and relive that week at the Western. That week was a lot of fun and was probably my best experience in my career so far. I would love to have another chance to go out there and play against him every week.
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Q: Is there any advice you would give to college kids who may be thinking of coming out out of school early to turn pro?
A: You really have to trust your instincts. You have to go with what makes you feel happy and what you think and feel is the right decision. At the end of the day, you can’t worry what other people think, or what other people say. You really have to just believe in what you believe in.
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Q: I admit to being a big UCF fan and proud alum, but do you consider yourself a UCF alumnus? Did you have a connection with the school in such a brief time?
A: I go to most of the home basketball games, and I support the school with all my heart and I love everyone there. So I do consider myself an alumni, for sure. Go Knights!