Founders honoree Haynie connects LPGA generations

By Randall MellMarch 15, 2016, 6:32 pm

She ached to win.

In Sandra Haynie’s case, that’s not a figure of speech.

Haynie’s compulsion to win burned so savagely it almost ate a hole in her stomach in her prime, back when she dug greatness out of the dirt with such unrelenting passion her body couldn’t take it anymore. She ate baby food to soothe an ulcer, but when she couldn’t find anything to ease the growing pain in her left hand she walked away from the tour. At 34, she left unable to feel the last two fingers of that hand. She left chasing greatness so hard that her fingers weren’t all she numbed with her uncompromising drive. She left in 1977 unable to enjoy the chase anymore. She walked away with 39 LPGA titles having proven herself beating Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Joanne Carner and all the greats of that era, but she also left looking for a peace that her passion to win would never accommodate.

In her four years away from the tour, Haynie didn’t just fix her hand with a surgery. She fixed her heart and mind in a new pursuit. She found the peace she was looking for helping another player deal with the demons that chasing greatness creates. She found it as a mental coach and manager, helping Martina Navratilova develop as a tennis champion.

That experience would also lead Haynie back to the LPGA to forge a more satisfying ending to her career.

Haynie returned to the tour in 1981, this time determined to enjoy what was left of her journey as a professional golfer. She came back and won the Henredon Classic that year. In 1982, she won the Rochester International and then a week later claimed a major championship as her 42nd and final LPGA title, winning the du Maurier Classic as her fourth major.

The LPGA is celebrating this Hall of Famer’s remarkable career this week at the JTBC Founders Cup.

Haynie, Shirley Englehorn and Jan Stephenson are this year’s tournament honorees.

“It’s going to be a special week,” Haynie said. “I tell you, though, it’s making me realize how much time has passed.”

Haynie, 72, remains active in the game, teaching in Dallas, where she lives. She still plays Legends Tour events once in awhile and also follows the LPGA closely. She is Ilhee Lee’s swing coach. Haynie says she makes it to about four LPGA tournaments a year to work with Lee, but she doesn’t mingle much with players. She’s looking forward to doing so this week.

Founders Cup festivities will bring back a lot of memories for Haynie, and the chance to share how she discovered joy in the game late in her career.

“I had been my own worst enemy, in a way, the first part of my career,” Haynie said. “I was putting so much pressure on myself, internalizing things. It was all about trying to be the best I could be. I think I played with a love of the game, but not with a joy of the game.”

Haynie said when she returned she was able to enjoy the game in a way she hadn’t before. She took time to see a bigger picture, to relish the tour experience and atmosphere.

“I was in a completely different place,” Haynie said. “I was really able to embrace things, doing something again that was such a huge part of my life. I wasn’t fighting being extra nervous in the morning. I wasn’t feeling excessive pressure. That was all self-induced, and when I came back, I played with a different perspective. I had a good time.”

While Haynie has met some of today’s LPGA pros in her time with Lee, she isn’t recognized by the youngest players, many of whom know little about the breadth and scope of Haynie’s success.

“My goodness, could Sandra putt,” Englehorn said.

The Founders Cup gives today’s players a chance to pick the brains of Haynie, Englehorn and Stephenson.

“I’ve met some of the players out there on tour today, but we don’t necessarily get to have much dialogue,” Haynie said. “This week will give me a chance to meet more players, to visit with them and talk about things. I look forward to that.

“Personally, I wish we had more opportunities like this for players from the past, who helped the LPGA through hard times to better times. There’s an awful lot of history that is being ... I don’t want to say lost, but put aside, and this week gives us an opportunity to share some of those things.”

Haynie has a lot of history to share because her career spanned so many generations of great women players. As a teen phenom growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, Haynie was invited to play nine holes with Babe Zaharias, one of the LPGA’s 13 founders. At 15, Haynie played in her first LPGA event. At 17, she turned pro and joined the LPGA, and at 19 she broke through in spectacular fashion to win for the first time. She beat Mickey Wright in a head-to-head final-round duel, claiming the Civitan Open in Austin, Texas.

“That was a great moment,” Haynie said. “To win your first one, that’s special, and to beat Mickey, made it even more so. I so admired her and loved playing with her.  I always learned something playing with her. That will always be one of my highlights.”

What was Wright like?

“She was so kind, so gentle, so immensely talented,” Haynie said. “I wish she had played a little longer, but she did everything she wanted to accomplish. It was wonderful to watch her and to be a part of it.”

When Haynie rejoined the tour, she competed against another great generation, against Amy Alcott, Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan.

“To feel like your game was good enough to hold up against some incredible players, that’s nice to look back on,” Haynie said.

And nice to share those memories with yet another generation.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.