Hahn ready for new adventure on European Tour

John Hahn tied for fifth at the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying Tournament to earn his European Tour card for the 2013-14 season.

Some find culture and historical enlightenment on their European vacations. But John Hahn? He found work.

That he’ll have to relocate to a different office each week, be it in South Africa or Asia or Europe, is perhaps a daunting thought for this kid from the Midwest, but it’s one that he is embracing without any apprehension.

“To be honest, I’m ready to go," said the former Kent State standout. "I’ve been playing pretty well and the season couldn’t be starting at a better time."

Just last week, Hahn strung together rounds of 66-66-73-68-71-71 to finish T-5 in the final stage of the European Tour’s qualifying tournament. So, for the first time since graduating from college in 2011, Hahn is in possession of that priceless commodity that professional golfers live for: status.

First things first, he withdrew from the second stage of the Web.com Tour Q-School. Given that he had just played three straight weeks on two continents – Stage 1 of Web.com Tour Q-School in the U.S. followed by Stages 2 and 3 of European Tour qualifying in Spain – “I was exhausted and probably not ready enough to be competitive,” Hahn said.

But withdrawing made sense from a professional standpoint, too, because a European Tour card opens up a wide array of opportunities that you don’t get with a Web.com Tour card.

“The opportunity to travel see the world? How do you replace that experience? Bigger purses, the chance for huge world-ranking points. It’s such a wonderful opportunity,” Hahn said.

And, yes, the timing seems impeccable given what transpired in 2013. Not only did another American expatriate make a huge splash on the European Tour, but Peter Uihlein is a friend, a longtime competitor, and someone to whom Hahn looks up to.

“Without a doubt,” Hahn said, when asked if Uihlein’s success on the European Tour in 2013 (he was the first American to be named the circuit’s rookie of the year) influenced his decision.

“I look at Peter and Brooks (Koepka, another American who fared well in Europe) as pioneers for a lack of a better word,” Hahn said. “Peter will be huge for me. I’ll lean on him for simple things, like where to go for dinner. He’s gone through it. I’d be stupid if I didn’t.”

Once Hahn, 24, made the decision to forgo the Web.com Tour Q-School, he went about the serious business of getting a European Tour schedule together. It will begin with next week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. Hahn is preparing for a Sunday departure, flying from West Palm Beach, Fla., to JFK Airport in New York, then to Johannesburg, then onto a smaller airport to take a shuttle to Leopard Creek GC in Malelane.

It will mark his debut as a European rookie, but he’ll hardly have time to rest. From the Dunhill, Hahn will fly about 6,500 miles to play in the Hong Kong Open. Then he’ll head back to South Africa to tee it up in the Nelson Mandela Championship.

Christmas back home with family and friends will provide a break, though Hahn will monitor his emails to see how many of the next stretch – the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa, then the Middle East swing through Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai – he gets into.

All in all, it’s a different world. And to consider just how different, think of this: Until Hahn teed it up in a Stage 1 site in Germany, his only experience with overseas golf was at an international junior tournament in Germany as a 17-year-old.

Instead, it’s been a steady diet of domestic golf for Hahn since he left Kent State. He’s been scrapping just to stay active in the professional competitive circles. Without Web.com Tour or PGA Tour status, he has spent parts of the last two-and-a-half years scrambling between the eGolf Professional Tour, some NGA Pro Golf Tour tourneys, the Golfslinger.com Tour, Monday qualifiers and state opens – “whatever I could play in that week,” he said.

But given the chance to spread his wings, Hahn shined in a series of brilliant efforts. In Germany, he finished a blistering 19 under to win his Stage 1 site, then for Stage 2 in Spain he finished fifth to easily advance. There was barely time to catch his breath and clean his clubs, because the final stage was just a few days later and Hahn remained in good form. His 66-66 start got him off and running and never were things in doubt.

For three stages and 14 rounds, Hahn was a cumulative 43 under, with 11 rounds in the 60s. He played like a veteran globetrotter – not an international novice – so clearly you can appreciate why Sunday can’t get here fast enough.

He’s got flights to catch and a career opportunity to seize.

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