I caught up with former Oklahoma State golfer-turned-professional Hunter Mahan on Tuesday and we discussed a wide range of topics dealing with the PGA Tour, his life as a father and professional golfer, and the resurgence of Oklahoma State football.
Mahan is currently gearing up for the Traveler’s Championship in Hartford, CT and is working with Tempur-Pedic through their “Sleeping on the Lead” campaign. When a PGA Tour player “sleeps on the lead” through 54 holes and wins, Tempur-Pedic will give a bed to a fan who has registered at TempurPedicGolf.com.
Mahan won the Traveler’s in 2007 in a playoff for his first career victory on the PGA Tour. Check out some highlights from that dramatic win.
Mahan was very candid in his interview and provided a lot of personal insight. Here is our conversation in a Q&A format ...
1. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your professional career?
HM: “Well, the PGA tour gives more money back to charity than all the other sports combined. We’re making an impact to every city we go to. It’s always interesting to think about the impact we have on our communities. There’s so many things that golf, in general, has given me, but I’d say chance to travel the world and see so much of it, and see the good and bad in the world has really opened my eyes to all situations. It’s nice to get out of your U.S. bubble and see the world and play golf along the way.”
2. What are your goals for the rest of the PGA Tour season?
HM: “To work hard every single day and be focused on every single shot I hit from the range to the course … get back to playing golf, seeing the shots I want to hit and trying to execute those shots and not worrying about the end result so much and being in the moment. My problem this year has been trying so hard and I keep bringing the prior tournaments into the week to try to erase those mistakes. The only thing I can do is try to hit good shots and try to get better.”
3. When you look back on your years on the PGA Tour to this point, what’s been your favorite memory from playing professional golf?
HM: “[Winning] at Travelers in 2007. It was such a childhood dream realized to play in the PGA Tour and I think of winning in dramatic fashion and having that kind of achievement felt so good. Also, to battle Rory McIlroy in Match Play… Match play is so much fun knowing you just have to beat the guy next to you. It’s personal in that sense. Playing on the team events, too. I grew up watching the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. It’s very special playing for something larger than yourself in your teammates, captains and country.”
4. After climbing to as high as No. 4 in the world golf rankings, it hasn’t come as easy for you lately in your career. What efforts are you making to get back to where you once were?
HM: “Golf is one of those things that gets in your head more than anything else because there’s so much more time to think in between shots. I’ve also three kids. I wouldn’t say things have gotten in the way, but more things have happened. I remember I told Paul Azinger, when he called me about the Ryder Cup, that I’m gonna work my butt off for you and put everything I have into it. He told me, ‘I want you to work and try the right amount. You can’t try too hard. If you try too hard, it’ll be too hard to catch.’ I think I’ve tried too hard. I’m working hard, doing everything I can, but there’s a sweet spot in golf with complete focus and letting things happen and not holding too tight on the wheel. It’s about playing golf and trying to get a score and not always judging your shots.”
5. You are a father now to three young children. What is it like to balance your home life as a father and your life on the course?
HM: “I’ve struggled with it. I want to be a great husband and a great father. It’s a balance. It’s about being present wherever you are and putting 100 percent effort into that moment. I’ve got a great wife and family who understand that golf is important to me. When I go out to practice or work out or if I need rest, she’s so supportive of what I do and that makes things a lot easier. But when I do leave the golf course, I need to be present at home and that’s more important than anything. Being present with your wife and children and not being on your phone or iPad … It’s really about the quality of time you spend with them or quality of time you spend practicing and working on your game.”
6. You are part of a long line of successful golfers to come out of Oklahoma State and have a successful professional career. What does it mean for you to represent OSU Golf?
HM: “It’s great. It’s why I went to Oklahoma State. I went to Southern Cal and it just wasn’t the place for me. I wanted to go to a place with more tradition and a place that was going to help me grow as a player. I felt it was a great place to grow as a player, as a person. Coach Holder was there and now they’re kind of the Pittsburgh Steelers of collegiate golf … It’s about guys who really love the University, care about the program. It was great to play for him and it taught me a lot. It felt like there was a gap there where we missed out on some good players and I felt that I kind of led the renaissance because we got some good players right after that in Rickie Fowler, Morgan Hoffman and Alex Noren. When people see your OSU headcovers, it lends itself to getting better and better recruits.”
7. Do you have a memory from playing at OSU that stands out to you in particular?
HM: “I just have the memories of our team being very close. We had a pretty small team. When I first got there we only had about eight guys and then it was 10. We were a bunch of pretty scrappy players. We weren’t the most talented team in the world but we were all guys who worked really hard, enjoyed practicing, enjoyed working out and playing for one another. It was just a great time. It was so much fun being around each other and trying to get better every single week. We finished 2nd at NCAA’s at Karsten Creek and that was a big accomplishment for the talent we had which wasn’t as much as other teams. Clemson won that year and they had a lot of good players… The fight, grit we had and just hanging out and being a team at all times was great.”
8. You follow OSU football pretty closely. What is your perception of the football program?
HM: “I remember Les Miles coming there and he really added some grit and feistiness to the team. Now we’re spoiled … If we don’t finish top 10 it seems like we’re kind of falling backwards. Gundy’s done an incredible job. It seems like every year he wins 10 games and we’re always going to good bowl games. Recruiting is so difficult and so competitive. They’ve done a great job and really maximized the talent on the team. Holder has done a great job with an influx of money to the program and creating incredible facilities for the teams from Tennis to Football. It’s really turned into world class facilities that make recruits think about where they want to play their collegiate sports.”
Again, a special thanks to Hunter Mahan and the Traveler’s Championship for this interview.
Enjoy these trick shot videos from Hunter Mahan, courtesy of the “Sleeping on the Lead” campaign.