Toni Hakula considers himself “absolutely Texan.” In any case, he’s lived in Austin, Texas, for a decade. Hakula attended the College of Texas, graduating in 2014 with a level in economics. Curiously, his sports activities allegiances lie with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Denver Broncos and incumbent NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
In contrast to most of his fellow Austinites, nevertheless, Hakula (pronounced HOCK-you-luh) grew up in Espoo, the second-largest metropolis in Finland. The 29-year previous speaks 4 languages: English, Finnish, Swedish and German. In one other life, he may need wished to show professional in hockey or tennis.
On this world, nevertheless, golf is — and all the time has been — his real love.
“I consider I began (taking part in golf) once I was about 4 years previous,” Hakula mentioned. “I performed a pair different sports activities rising up too, however I believe once I was round 13 is once I had dropped every little thing else. I undoubtedly had a whole lot of success rising up as a child. I’ve all the time been very aggressive in that sense.”
After highschool, Hakula turned a member of the Texas Longhorns males’s golf program. He admits that his first few months in america have been “completely just a little difficult” as he obtained used to dwelling in a tradition worlds aside from the one wherein he was raised.
So what made acclimatization simpler for the crew’s lone freshman in 2010? It was the folks round him, from teammates to coaches to educational employees. Hakula credit all of them with serving to him settle in and get his new life rolling.
And he rolled certainly.
In 2011, Hakula was named Huge 12 Newcomer of the Yr. A season later, he was a part of the Texas nationwide championship crew alongside a trifecta of present PGA Tour gamers: Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Kramer Hickok. Hakula went 2-1 within the 2012 championship run as Frittelli clinched the Longhorns’ third NCAA title with a 30-foot putt on the 18th gap towards top-seeded Alabama.
“Oh, that 12 months was completely wonderful,” Hakula mentioned. “Actually all 4 years that I used to be in school, we had stable groups, we had a whole lot of good guys. The blokes who performed on that crew are PGA Tour winners.”
Spieth is clearly probably the most embellished of Hakula’s former teammates. His latest struggles have been well-documented, however the 2015 FedEx Cup champion nonetheless has 11 PGA Tour victories underneath his belt. Frittelli owns one PGA Tour win (the 2019 John Deere Basic) and 4 worldwide triumphs. Hickok remains to be looking for his first breakthrough on the massive circuit, however has one Korn Ferry Tour win and two Mackenzie Tour titles.
“Seeing their success provides you extra perception in your individual doings,” Hakula mentioned of his former teammates. “You understand, it’s potential to (have success as a professional), and I can do this too.”
The Household Connection
Not each athlete will get to reside out his dream with household by his aspect, however Hakula has been lucky. In 2013, his youthful sister Anne (pronounced AW-knee) flew throughout the pond to affix him on the College of Texas. Father Tommi and mom Helena moved stateside that 12 months as effectively, and the entire household has since put down roots in Austin.
Anne herself turned a Longhorn and joined the ladies’s golf crew, the place she performed all 4 years till commencement. In 2015, she made the Huge 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
“You understand, once we have been little youngsters, we have been all the time very shut,” mentioned Hakula, who additionally attended the identical highschool as Anne. “She’s actually adopted me by way of the college system from elementary onwards to in every single place I’ve gone. It’s been very nice to have her round the entire time.
“Hopefully I used to be in a position to assist her out just a little bit when she obtained in (to Texas). Type of obtained her by way of particularly the primary few months of faculty, realizing that it was a fairly robust transition.”
Alongside the best way, Anne fell in love with Hickok, her large brother’s former teammate. In a couple of weeks, she’s going to transfer from Austin to Dallas to affix her fiance forward of their deliberate December wedding ceremony.
Hakula and Hickok turned buddies throughout their three years collectively on the Longhorns roster. Since then, Hickok (a two-time All-Huge 12 honoree) wanted solely three years to go from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA Tour. The teammates have stayed in contact and play golf collectively when they’re ready.
Hakula seems ahead to Hickok and Anne’s wedding ceremony. “After they get married, we’ll have precise prolonged household who’re all golfers as effectively so it sort of brings us all collectively.”
Finland isn’t an enormous golf nation, and that meant Hakula’s junior golf profession took him overseas regularly. As an novice, he pulled off two runner-up finishes towards skilled opponents in Denmark and completed T-18 on the 2008 Junior Gamers Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.
The majority of Hakula’s professional expertise has since come on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, the place he received the 2018 Bupa Match Play and has a pair of top-10s to go along with it. He feels that being accustomed with worldwide journey has helped him benefit from his alternative.
“Most golfers, or all of us, our aim is to be on the PGA Tour, and the PGA Tour performs all world wide,” mentioned Hakula, who has already competed in Peru, Mexico, Jamaica, Chile and Brazil. “So having the prospect to play PGA Tour Latinoamerica and touring so much I believe will bode effectively when hopefully I get on the massive tour.”
Hakula rode out the COVID-19 shutdown at residence in Austin. He practiced his expertise on the acquainted College of Texas Golf Membership, which was in a position to function through the shutdown with well being protocols in place.
COVID-19 did drive a number of PGA Tour associates, together with the Mackenzie Tour and PGA Tour Latinoamerica, to cancel or postpone their seasons. When information arose of a novel U.S.-based tour that may function in lieu of them, Hakula was “absolutely in, 100%”.
Enter the LOCALiQ Tour, which materialized because of a collaboration between the PGA Tour and it’s administration companions to deliver again golf for gamers in any respect ranges of the professional recreation. It kicked off in early August with the Alpharetta Basic in Georgia and was initially scheduled to conclude in late October with a season finale within the Bahamas. As a consequence of logistical and health-related points, the collection championship was moved again three weeks to TPC Sugarloaf in Atlanta.
Hakula finds himself third within the LOCALiQ factors standings with 675.667 (lower than a single level forward of fourth-place Hayden Shieh). Regardless of lacking two consecutive cuts from late August to early September, he proved that he might cling with the most effective.
The Finn’s most interesting second got here throughout The Problem at Harbor Hills in late September. There, Hakula carded a final-round 7-under 63, made just one bogey on his final 46 holes and broke a four-way tie to emerge victorious.
“I used to be very comfortable to clearly get the win,” mentioned the previous Longhorn, who additionally owns a T-5 end on the LOCALiQ Tour. “I felt like my recreation was in nice form all summer time, and simply hadn’t fairly closed out a event but, so having achieved that at Harbor Hills, particularly the best way the final day went. We have been all going after it, birdieing, and having to essentially clutch as much as win the occasion was very cool.”
Hakula would have welcomed going to the Bahamas, however he doesn’t thoughts taking part in the collection championship in Atlanta both. “It’ll be enjoyable,” he mentioned. “I nonetheless have the aim to be high two and hopefully get a PGA Tour exemption for subsequent 12 months. The entire collection has been so nice thus far, I’m certain the final occasion’s gonna be icing on the cake.”