James Hahn wins in playoff at Riviera … now do you know him?
James Hahn’s professional golf career was stalling so much eight years ago that he got a side gig as a salon shoe salesman at Nordstrom.
He once had just $200 to his name, which isn’t nearly enough to buy a pair of those Jimmy Choo shoes or other high-end kicks he said he was so good at selling. He was in Edmonton on the Canadian Tour and didn’t have enough money to pay his caddie fee, so he borrowed it. He finished eighth in that event and earned $3,000.
Hahn’s wife, Stephanie, still shops at DSW, even though Hahn has been on PGA Tour for three years and is ranked No. 297 in the world.
He’s had several near-misses, and until Sunday, he was most famous for the awesome Gangnam dance two years ago on the 16th green at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, which is the PGA Tour’s biggest party hole.
Fans love it. Many still don’t know his name, but they know he’s got dance game.
"Humbling is awesome. Winning is awesome," Hahn said. "Everyone wants me to do the dance. I don’t think they even know my name."
He also had mad putting skills this week and lived off them in a three-way playoff at the Northern Trust Open at rainy Riviera Country Club. He made a 25-foot putt on the third playoff hole — which was No. 14 — and did a Tiger Woods fist pump. Dustin Johnson missed his 12-foot putt and failed to send it to another hole, securing Hahn’s first PGA Tour victory.
Hahn shot a 2-under 69 to get into the playoff. He scored a par on the first playoff hole, the 18th, and then hit a flop shot to within 10 feet on No. 10 — here some of the best golfers have melted down — and made it. Johnson was inside that and made his too. Paul Casey, also in the playoff, missed his putt, and Johnson and Hahn continued to No. 14, where Hahn ended the playoff with a win.
His charming personality was finally on a big stage, and that positive attitude led him to a victory celebration on one of the most famous greens in golf. His optimism kept his golf career in tact.
"I just kind of looked at myself in the mirror and told myself I wasn’t even supposed to be here," Hahn said. "I come from a small town (Alameda). Didn’t do well in college (at Cal). Was never an All-American. Sold shoes for a living for a while. And one day, the putts started going in and started playing a little better. Won a couple golf tournaments, and now I’m here."
Hahn’s marketing team still has work to do in terms of his name with his face. He’s so not well-known that a fan — Hahn called the man golfer K.J. Choi’s fan — ran onto the green and poured beer on him to celebrate. No one stopped him.
Can you imagine this scenario with Phil Mickelson as champion?
Hahn’s positive attitude is so great, that he didn’t even mind the rain. It reminded him of the days he used to grind it out on the range hitting balls at the Metropolitan Golf Links in Northern California.
"It would be raining every single day, and I’d be the only guy on the range," Hahn said. "… When it was raining today, it kind of brought me back to being very spiritual and saying, ‘I love this.’ "
Hahn went to his press conference, saw a beer near his microphone — and he already smelled like beer anyway — and innocently asked a room full of reporters: "Can I?"
— Jill Painter Lopez (@jillpainter) February 23, 2015
Who knows if you can have a victory drink if you’ve never won before.
The 33-year-old Hahn won $1.206 million, and his first child is scheduled to be born in three weeks.
"Do you know how many diapers I can buy with that?" Hahn said. "This is a dream come true. I know it’s clichÃ© to write that."
Hahn, who lives in Alameda, joked that he might have found the perfect name for his baby girl — Riviera. But he’ll have to check with his wife first.
Augusta might be a good fit as well, since Hahn punched his first ticket to the Masters with the victory.
Hahn has played in just one major — the 2012 U.S. Open — but missed the cut.
Folks in Los Angeles surely think of the former mayor of the city before the professional golfer. Some of Hahn’s colleagues don’t even know who he is, but you figure winning at Riviera might change that.
"I think a couple guys in the locker room are calling me John, like John Huh," Hahn said. "It’s amazing how many people don’t know me. I don’t think it’s that amazing, but I think it’s kind of cool. They have no idea who I am.
"I was walking up the stairs (to the clubhouse) and I played with Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson, and this little kid was like, ‘Good job, Jim. Good job, Dustin. Good job,’ … He was like, ‘who’s that guy?’ Even when I was signing hats after the round, I asked some guy if there was a playoff. He said, ‘Yeah, it’s Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey and some other guy. I was like ‘OK, cool. Here’s your hat.’ It’s humbling. I don’t expect anybody to know my game. I just play golf for a living."
More fun than selling shoes for a living.