It didn’t measure up to what he finally accomplished at the Honda Classic, but making the cut on the number on Friday was a relief for Mackenzie Hughes, who had missed the previous five coming in and nine of 11 this season.
It also caught the attention of a Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member, who texted him that evening. Herb Page, originally from Markham, Ont., is the 40-year, now-retired head coach at Kent State, where Hughes played his collegiate golf, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame just last year, along with Rod Spittle.
“He said, you know what? The hard part is over,” said Hughes.
“It kind of loosened me up a little bit and I said, let’s just go out there and play golf and see what happens,” he added.
What happened was that Hughes shot a pair of four-under 66s and combined, he was three shots better on the weekend than anyone else in the field.
At five under, he finished solo second, one shot behind eventual winner Sungjae Im, and hung in until the 72nd hole of the tournament.
“I was just a little bit more at ease on Saturday and once I posted four under, I knew that was going to give me a chance on Sunday, and then again, I knew I probably needed the same kind of round on Sunday, but just the confidence of doing it the day before, I thought I can do this,” said Hughes, whose lone PGA Tour win came at the RSM Classic in 2016.
“I had a great feel with a lot of the shots I was hitting this week, and yeah, it was just nice to be in there because it’s been a while,” he said.
“I’ve had a very tough season so far and don’t feel like I’ve played poorly. I’ve missed a lot of cuts by two, three shots and I’ve had my chances to play the weekend, but things just were falling short there at the end,” added Hughes.
“I never felt like I was far away from being in a spot like this and I knew that this golf course would be a great fit for just the grind — make a bunch of pars, throw in the odd birdie and I’ve always loved coming to this place. It tests every part of your game and it’s mostly just mental,” he said.
Hughes added that he had another source of inspiration throughout the entire tournament.
“I had a friend of mine who passed away last week in Charlotte, Daniel Meggs, and all week, I marked my ball with his initials and I just want to tell Daniel, who’s up in a better place now, and his family that I’m really thinking about them,” he said.
“Daniel was an incredible human being, golfer at Wake Forest, and I was playing for him this week. I always play for myself, but I looked down at my ball every now and then and just reminded myself that it’s a blessing to be able to have another round of golf, to continue to play this great game, and I know what he wouldn’t give for another chance to play a round of golf or to be with his family,” said Hughes.