Hayden helping keep Johnson's memory alive

By Jason SobelNovember 29, 2014, 8:23 pm

John Hayden was just nine years old when he first heard of Bradley Johnson. He was at home, right off the 14th hole of the Founders Course at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., playing basketball with his friend Austin Taylor, the gravitational pull of golf still an afterthought for a kid with a course in his backyard. That spring afternoon, though, one of Austin’s older brothers, Sean, burst toward his driveway and breathlessly declared that greatness was nearby.

“Bradley Johnson is playing the 14th hole!” he cried.

Confronted by a pair of blank expressions, he quickly explained that Johnson was a budding golf superstar, runner-up at the previous year’s U.S. Junior Amateur and a soon-to-be college player. He told them that Johnson would be a pro someday, the kind they’d watch on TV, and if they were smart, they’d go outside and meet him now, before he becomes famous.

So the boys gathered up a few old golf balls and some hats and a Sharpie marker, raced out to the 14th green and waited as Johnson, playing a casual round with friends, finished putting. Then they politely asked for autographs.

Johnson’s buddies razzed him immediately. A 17-year-old high school kid signing balls and hats? They got a kick out of that. But Johnson didn’t act the part of celebrity diva.

“He laughed and smiled, talked to us for a little while,” Hayden recalls. “He couldn’t have been nicer.”

It was the only time he would ever speak with the budding golf superstar.

A few weeks later, Bradley Johnson was dead.

Right around noon on March 25, 2006, Johnson was involved in a two-vehicle accident. After spending the night with his two best friends at a lake house about an hour from his home, Johnson reached a stop sign on a rural county road. He pulled too far into the intersection. An 18-wheeler crashed into his green Chevy Blazer. His friends blacked out, but lived. Johnson did not.

His life was cut short on the verge of a burgeoning golf career. Johnson was planning to play a practice round for a state tournament that day. Later that weekend, he was going to reveal to his family which one of three SEC scholarship offers – Auburn, Georgia or Alabama – he would accept.

Johnson would have turned 26 on Nov. 21. Many of his friends and fellow AJGA competitors, players like Harris English, Billy Horschel and Scott Stallings, are already winners of multiple PGA Tour titles. He had the talent to reach that level, too.

“I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t have,” says his father, Hugh. “That’s what he wanted to do – and he certainly had the love for it.”

Instead, his name has lived on with the Bradley Johnson Memorial Foundation. Started months after his death, its main purpose is to provide playing opportunities for underprivileged junior golfers.

Not long after meeting Johnson on that 14th green behind his house, Hayden started playing golf more regularly. He matured into a talented player on the competitive junior level. When he started competing in AJGA events and wanted to make a charitable contribution, he naturally chose Johnson’s foundation as the beneficiary.

Three years later, Hayden has raised more than $42,000 for a special endowment geared specifically toward underprivileged AJGA players. For that, he earned recognition as one of the organization’s top fundraisers in its Leadership Links program, as well as the Presidents’ Leadership Award, co-sponsored by the USGA.

From the Johnson family, he’s earned much more.

Not only their gratitude for helping to keep Bradley’s memory alive, but a living reminder of a kid described as kind-hearted and gentle.

“Bradley was friends with everyone,” says his younger brother Michael, currently a redshirt junior on the Auburn golf team. “He was never mean to anyone; he wasn’t part of one social crowd. And I see that with John, too. He definitely resembles Bradley.”

Their father agrees: “John has a big smile; Bradley was always smiling. John has never met a stranger, he’s always cordial; so was Bradley. Both competitive, both very pleasant young men to be around.”

As if to only hammer home that notion, Hayden’s charitable fundraising didn’t come via marathon rounds of golf or hosting clinics for younger players. Instead, he spoke with people. Told them of Bradley Johnson’s story and how he wanted help keep his legacy alive. He shook hands. He sent handwritten letters. Golf was the indirect connection for these donations, but it wasn’t his method for receiving them.

“Golf is just something I do,” insists Hayden, who will begin playing for UAB in the fall. “The foundation is about people who don’t even play golf, but donate money. It’s just word of mouth. It’s me telling people about the foundation and asking them to donate.”

Even though he only met Johnson once, Hayden says he tries to live a life patterned after everything he’s heard about him: Be nice to people; be charitable; be hard-working.

As for those autographs, he hasn’t seen them lately, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop looking.

“I don’t know where they went,” he sighs. “I’ve tried looking for them. Someday I’ll find them and give them back to the family. I hope that day comes soon.”

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.