Brooklyn, Mass. – Kaboom.
Nick Hardy had just rolled at 6ft for the Friday Birds on the eighth hole of the Par-5 host at The Country Club, and Hardy’s father, John, was there to pick her up on his phone. Moments later, John Hardy shared the four-second video with friends and family on social media—with his familiar tagline, of course.
After hitting send, John raced up the runway ramps and down the 9th fairway to follow Nick’s last hole.
“I’m shivering a lot now,” John admitted as he rushed toward the green.
Who can blame him? Nick had just snatched off the lead at 122second abbreviation US Open Championship.
John said of his son, a 26-year-old PGA Tour rookie, “We’ve all known for a long time that he can, and just seeing him do it, the way he carries himself – it’s his fourth US Open, but This is the first time he’s been here to win it, and you can see it.”
Most of Nick Hardy’s stature players may have coughed up a stroke or two at the last – see: Daffue, MJ – but Hardy, after knocking out his approach shot and standing short sideways into the dugout of the right green side, blasted off to 7ft and rolled softly into equalization except for 2. – Under 68.
It was the second straight opening round of this tournament for Hardy, who enters the weekend in Under 3, which has him tied up at the top of the club with Scotty Scheffler as the Friday afternoon spell began. (By the end of the day, he was sharing eighth, two shots back.) Hardy was a contemporary of Schaeffler in college, is an all-American in Illinois and graduated a year later from Scheffler. Both players played a game in the 2013 American Amateur Tournament here at The Country Club, where Hardy fired a 65 in the lead after the first round of a stroke before eventually falling to Zach Blair in the round of 64. Schaeffler went on to reach the quarter-finals.
But when Schaeffler donned a green jacket and climbed to number one in the rankings, Hardy, in his debut season, had barely collected 100 FedExcope points. He has made half of his 14 cuts and is ranked #182 in points.
It didn’t help that Hardy missed about a month after injuring his left wrist while colliding with a wedge bullet during the Zurich Classic in April. Hardy suffered a partial dislocation of the ECU tendon and a rupture under the casing, and according to the doctor’s orders he was forced to put away the batons for 30 days.
The injury was similar – if not severe – to the one that kept Sahith Thigala out of the home for more than a year as an amateur. Knowing this, Hardy reached out to his friend and fellow Tour pro, who assured Hardy, “Dude, don’t rush this. It’s not just an injury you want to mess with.”
“That was good advice,” Hardy said, “because I’m definitely the type of person who is quick to get injured.”
Hardy’s college coach, Mike Smalls knows that bundle of energy all too well. When Hardy first stepped onto campus for a recruiting visit, Small noticed an apparent thirst for greatness.
“He’s a type A,” Small said, “and he’s going to go get it.”
But as careful as Hardy is, he is uniquely positive in a sport marked by its frequent failures. Even as a high school student, Hardy recognized the importance of living on the “positive side of the spectrum,” as Small describes it.
“He’s the most positive player I’ve ever coached,” Small said. “When he enters the room, a very positive energy follows him. …I think he knows how bad breaks can get to him, and how harmful they can be. He has had some adversities this year, but what I love about him is that he knows how to focus and improve his mind “.
John Hardy added: “He takes the positives out of everything… which is why I think the break [to heal his injury] It was good for him because he needed it. He wasn’t playing well, and you could see him starting to get frustrated, but this little bit of time changed his point of view.”
With the help of his fiancée, Liz, a former professional golfer in Australia, Nick Hardy made use of his time on the handicap. He changed his diet and began focusing on his breathing, using a device called the Neuropeak Pro NTEL Belt, which is designed to help athletes better manage stress.
He also realized that he was overdoing it in practice, hitting ball after ball and often posing the problem. Upon recovery, Hardy chose to back off by playing the Korn Ferry Tour event at The Glen Club in Glenview, Illinois, just a few miles from his home. He almost won, losing in a playoff to Harry Hall.
Full field scores from the US Open
Hardy followed him up by taking the alternate first place out of Springfield, Illinois, the finalists and later that week, finding he finished last at this week’s US Open, tied for 35.The tenth at the RBC Canadian Open.
“He showed me how far I’ve come in this match, I think, because I don’t need to touch a club every day to keep that up and keep feeling good,” Hardy said. “So, this is crucial… it slowed me down.”
Although Hardy has played as many as 54 holes in the past US Open starts, he cleverly chose to blast off on Monday before beginning his country club preparations, scoring 18 holes on Tuesday and “a little” on Wednesday.
As that old tale continued, slow and steady wins the race, and Hardy looked more and more like one of the seasoned veterans of those two days. He made few mistakes through the 36 holes, combing only four bogeys, intentionally climbing up the leaderboard.
Hardy may be known for his superior leadership ability, but he is gradually learning how to enhance other aspects of his game. In college, Hardy developed into one of the most consistent strikers Small has coached. This week, he bucked the fact that he is only ahead of five players in the round in hits earned: around the green.
No wonder Small always says Hardy would play the best golf in his forties.
“I feel better and better, year after year, since I was a really little kid,” Hardy said. “Maybe not as fast as I’d like, but I’m kind of progressing at my own pace, and I feel like I’ve understood that for a while now. I feel like I have enough experience under my belt to be ready to play well this weekend.”
When he was in the fourth grade, Hardy wrote a letter to his father about why he wanted to play golf. Part of this message reads:
Now I have 14 disabilities.
If I exercise more, I can get a disability under 10 years.
If I had a disability under the age of ten, I might be famous.
I might be the next Tiger Woods.
I’d be able to shoot on par on a really tough golf course.
I could even go on the PGA Tour…I think it would be fun to win there.
If only Hardy knew what he knows now. Do you think winning the round is fun, boy? Try to raise the US Open.
Hardy will get that chance this weekend, and if he makes it, John will be ready to split the moment at the loudest Kaboom Until now.