Toni Hakula considers himself “fully Texan.” After all, he’s lived in Austin, Texas, for a decade. Hakula attended the University of Texas, graduating in 2014 with a degree in economics. Curiously, his sports allegiances lie with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Denver Broncos and incumbent NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Unlike most of his fellow Austinites, however, Hakula (pronounced HOCK-you-luh) grew up in Espoo, the second-largest city in Finland. The 29-year old speaks four languages: English, Finnish, Swedish and German. In another life, he might have wanted to turn pro in hockey or tennis.
In this world, however, golf is — and always has been — his true love.
“I believe I started (playing golf) when I was about four years old,” Hakula said. “I played a couple other sports growing up too, but I think when I was around 13 is when I had dropped everything else. I definitely had a lot of success growing up as a kid. I’ve always been very competitive in that sense.”
After high school, Hakula became a member of the Texas Longhorns men’s golf program. He admits that his first few months in the United States were “absolutely a little tricky” as he got used to living in a culture worlds apart from the one in which he was raised.
So what made acclimatization easier for the team’s lone freshman in 2010? It was the people around him, from teammates to coaches to academic staff. Hakula credits them all with helping him settle in and get his new life rolling.
And he rolled indeed.
In 2011, Hakula was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. A season later, he was part of the Texas national championship team alongside a trifecta of current PGA Tour players: Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Kramer Hickok. Hakula went 2-1 in the 2012 championship run as Frittelli clinched the Longhorns’ third NCAA title with a 30-foot putt on the 18th hole against top-seeded Alabama.
“Oh, that year was absolutely amazing,” Hakula said. “Really all four years that I was at school, we had solid teams, we had a lot of good guys. The guys who played on that team are PGA Tour winners.”
Spieth is obviously the most decorated of Hakula’s former teammates. His recent struggles have been well-documented, but the 2015 FedEx Cup champion still has 11 PGA Tour victories under his belt. Frittelli owns one PGA Tour win (the 2019 John Deere Classic) and four international triumphs. Hickok is still seeking his first breakthrough on the big circuit, but has one Korn Ferry Tour win and two Mackenzie Tour titles.
“Seeing their success gives you more belief in your own doings,” Hakula said of his former teammates. “You know, it’s possible to (have success as a pro), and I can do that too.”
The Family Connection
Not every athlete gets to live out his dream with family by his side, but Hakula has been fortunate. In 2013, his
By: David Song
Title: Toni Hakula's globe-trotting golf journey spans Europe and the Americas
Sourced From: golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/10/29/toni-hakula-texas-longhorns-pga-tour-latinoamerica-localiq/
Published Date: Thu, 29 Oct 2020 14:00:50 +0000