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Nick Hardy

A Few Minutes With Nick Hardy

College of Applied Health Sciences media relations specialist Vince Lara speaks to pro golfer Nick Hardy, an Illinois alum, about his experience in the College of AHS and the Recreation, Sport and Tourism program.

Click here to see the full transcript.

VINCE LARA: Hi, and welcome to another edition of A Few Minutes With, the podcast that showcases Illinois' College of Applied Science. I'm Vince Lara and today, I'm speaking with former airline golfer Nick Hardy about why he picked RST, how COVID affected 2020, and his future golf plans. All right, so I'm talking with Nick Hardy. And Nick, you're from Northbrook, Illinois. So was the University of Illinois always your first choice, or did you think about other schools?


NICK HARDY: You know what? It was always the on of my list, I would say, because being an in-state kid and growing up, I wasn't really a college fan growing up per se of one team. But I like to root for Illinois, Northwestern both. And then I just kind of became more educated on what type of school I wanted to go to and what kind of golf coach I want to play for and what kind of program I wanted to be a part of. And as I visited schools more, it became pretty obvious pretty quickly that I wanted to go to Illinois.

VINCE LARA: Is that largely because of Coach Small since you mentioned coaches?

NICK HARDY: Oh yeah, yeah. Coach Small was a huge influence on my college decision for sure. Obviously the school being a great University to attend for a degree-wise was up on my list as well. But being able to play for Coach Small was a huge draw for me just as a golfer knowing that eventually, I'd like to try to play professional golf back when I was making my decision.

VINCE LARA: Was sports always the way you thought about getting into college? In other words, did you think I'm going to go on a scholarship? Or was it kind of an afterthought as you were in that process?

NICK HARDY: I never-- honestly, it was really not even a thought. I really grew up loving golf. I just love to play the game, and I love playing sports in general. But golf was always my number one sport. And as I just kept playing in tournaments as a middle schooler and then into high school, I knew it became a reality where it was a possibility for me to play collegiate golf. So early on in my high school career I'd say is when I was set on hopefully earning a scholarship.

VINCE LARA: Now where'd you get your love of golf from? Was it from your parents, from another relative or friend?

NICK HARDY: Yeah, for sure my dad, for sure, and my grandfather. They both got me into it a lot, I'd say my dad for sure being the biggest influence. I would just follow my dad around doing whatever he did.

And when I started walking is when I picked up a club first, and I would start just chipping in the backyard, and it just began from there. I just got my first set of clubs when I was 4, and I just grew up on a par 3 course. So golf was ingrained in me early on, and I just fell in love with the game.

VINCE LARA: Do you have a favorite golfer or somebody that you try to emulate?

NICK HARDY: Yeah, I-- Tiger Woods was always my idol growing up on the golf course. I grew up-- yeah, I was basically a Tiger baby. I grew up during this time, and I loved watching him play as early as I can remember. And you know, he was definitely a big influence, a big draw for me to play tournament golf early on too.

VINCE LARA: Now when you decided on Illinois, you had to pick an academic program, obviously. And you ended up picking RST, and I wonder why you did that. Is it just the sports part in general?

NICK HARDY: Yeah, I honestly-- I started out undecided for the first about a year and a half. I was in general studies, and I was one of those kids who really didn't know what I wanted to do early on. But I'm glad I did that because then it allowed me to really get to decide from there what I wanted after experiencing a year in college, you know?

But I had older teammates who had gone through in AHS and in RST. So having gotten recommendations from older people who were in the program and who had experienced it, I decided based off their good word about it and just that it was basically a major that I wanted to do because it was pretty-- it was broad enough to where I can have a broad enough of the major to where I didn't have to totally focus on something if I were going in the workforce, you know? So I was pretty happy with that decision, and I'm very happy with it now.

VINCE LARA: Now I know COVID has had a lot of impact on golf, on sports in general. But I wonder how much it's changed golf for you and practice for you. Did travel part of playing-- you know, you're on the Korn Ferry Tour. How much has it impacted you?

NICK HARDY: Yeah, you know, COVID obviously has impacted everyone, but for me, we had a three month break, and my tour was able to get back to playing pretty quickly in June. So yeah, it was different afterwards, obviously. Everyone's adjusting to a new normal.

But we got tested weekly. We obviously had-- all the players, you had to be very careful about exposure. And we're basically staying in public. You know, we're staying in hotel rooms.

We're traveling. Like, we were definitely, like, exposing ourselves to begin with. But everyone had to do their part to be careful so that we could keep playing and doing our jobs, technically. So that part was much different. Obviously, everyone-- really just the stress of the whole, you know, not getting the virus. But we were lucky that we were able to get back to resuming relatively quickly after three months.

VINCE LARA: Now you've qualified for two PGA events, and you-- correct me if I'm wrong, but you have to win three Korn Ferry events in order to qualify for the PGA Tour. Is that correct?

NICK HARDY: Immediately, yes.


NICK HARDY: But like, usually in a normal year, you spend a year on a tour in the top 25 on the tour in points to get their card, PGA Tour card. So like in a normal year, I would have gotten my PGA Tour card because I finished 15 on a point list.

VINCE LARA: Got you. I got you.

NICK HARDY: So there are definitely-- that's just another avenue where you can get your card by winning three times.

VINCE LARA: Mm-hmm, OK. Now obviously, golf is what you see in your future here like. You know, let's say a successful 25 year golf career, right? That would be the ideal? But what--

NICK HARDY: Yeah, yeah.

VINCE LARA: What do you think-- thanks to your degree, what kind of job would you have gone into had you not played golf?

NICK HARDY: I get that question a lot. Honestly, I never-- I'll be honest with you. I just never thought about it.


NICK HARDY: I would like to be affiliated with sports, and maybe, like, possibly a sports agent would be pretty cool, and that degree help me.


NICK HARDY: I might need to get another degree to be able to do that, but just the connections alone from the University of Illinois and being on the golf team is very beneficial to the Chicago network. So just the degree and having Illinois and be on the golf team alone really helped me-- it helped me meet a lot of people through the Illinois golf program and just through Illinois who are networked in Chicago. And me being from Chicago, that helped a lot too. So having known a lot of people really helps. But obviously, like I said earlier, the degree being a little bit brought up to where I can be flexible in what I would want to do if it weren't for golf, you know?

VINCE LARA: Right. Do you have any favorite memories from being on campus, you know, besides-- you were an outstanding golfer, obviously. But you know, besides golf.

NICK HARDY: Yeah, I just love the campus life in general. I love, you know, the part of the AHS. Like, I was always honestly like in Huff Hall a lot, on that part of the campus a lot. I love being close to my facility on that part of campus for the golf facility.

I just enjoy my time, you know, when I was on campus with my fellow students and professors. I feel like especially the applied health sciences department is very tight-knit, and everyone was really helpful. All the professors, all the people who helped facilitate the students in succeeding at what they want to succeed at, I think just that part, in general, was very-- a very cool part.

VINCE LARA: My thanks to Nick Hardy. For more podcasts on Illinois' College of Applied Health Sciences, search A Few Minutes With on iTunes, Spotify, iHeart Radio,, and other places you get your podcast fix. Thanks for listening, and see you next time.

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