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#TOURBound: Weeks after daughter’s death, Hayden Springer earns first PGA TOUR card

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    Editor's note: Hayden Springer is making his first start on the PGA TOUR in 2024 as a rookie at The American Express. Springer was one of five to earn their TOUR cards at PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry in December 2023.

    When you become a parent, you start to have these feelings you never thought you could have. You’re the protector. The provider. You help and laugh and do whatever you need to because that’s what you want to do.

    Hayden Springer felt unimaginable loss as a parent on Nov. 13. His first-born child daughter Sage passed away at age 3. She was prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 18 – a severe developmental disorder – and she wasn’t expected to make it out of the hospital. Or live longer than a couple weeks.

    She was born by C-section on Oct. 1, 2020, and was a fighter. She had a multiple-hour heart surgery four months after she was born and spent another two months in the hospital. She received around-the-clock care, mostly from Springer’s parents. His wife, Emma, works as a nurse.

    “She was just a very joyful girl, and she really loved her life,” Emma told PGATOUR.COM after the first round of Final Stage of PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry. “I think she just inspired joy in a lot of people, really made a lot of people feel joy and smile just knowing her … the joy that she brought to the world and others is really her in a nutshell. That’s a big part of her legacy, for sure.”

    After Sage passed away last month, Springer played an All Pro Tour event last week as a warm-up to Final Stage – where he finished fifth. Springer earned his way to Final Stage after topping PGA TOUR Canada’s season-long Fortinet Cup race.

    He opened the week very firmly in the mix after a 4-under 66 at Dye’s Valley Course. Springer was steady enough after that, shooting rounds of 69-68 before a torrential downpour canceled play Sunday and moved the final round of Final Stage to Monday. He had as good a start as he could have asked for – going out in 3-under 32. Springer made back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 though to start creeping further away from the magic number.

    A birdie on 14 got him back in the picture, and despite a bogey on the penultimate hole of the tournament, a tap-in par was all he needed to finish tied for fourth at 8 under, one shot ahead of Satoshi Kodaira. PGA TOUR card secured. Dream realized.

    Hayden Springer's solid birdie at PGA TOUR Q-School

    “It's hard to put into words for sure,” Springer said. “It’s unbelievable.”

    With Springer’s season-long triumph on PGA TOUR Canada, he knew he had Korn Ferry Tour status locked up already and had just a singular goal this week – become #TOURBound. He’s played just four TOUR events in his career, including this fall’s Fortinet Championship (after winning PGA TOUR Canada’s Fortinet Cup) and the U.S. Open in 2021.

    Although his TOUR resume is relatively light, he has competed against – and beat – some of the game’s best before. He won the Big 12 Championship in 2018 while playing for Texas Christian University and defeated reigning FedExCup champion Viktor Hovland on his way to tilting the trophy.

    Springer won twice on PGA TOUR Canada this summer, including the season finale, and leaned on that experience in Final Stage.

    “This summer in Canada definitely helped me to get it done today and to handle kind of the pressure and what needed to happen,” Springer said. “I think the two wins that I had, in those final rounds, it was a similar feeling trying to get the job done.”

    Hayden Springer drains putt for birdie at PGA TOUR Q-School

    Springer and Emma – who also played golf at Texas Tech University – didn’t do much through the canceled Sunday round besides taking Annie, their one-year-old daughter, to the park for an hour. The day, he admitted, was tough. But there was nothing he could have done about the weather or the delay, so, Springer said, he came into Monday’s finale trying to stay as patient as possible and to control his emotions.

    He thought of Sage plenty during his last competitive 18 holes of 2023. Mentally, Springer admitted, it’s “interesting” to think of his daughter as much as he does inside the ropes. Out there there’s pressure and he’s trying to execute on one shot at a time. And on Monday in particular, he was trying to achieve a lifelong dream.

    But they’re happy thoughts.

    “It's kind of one of those things that I think about her, and I just think about her smile,” Springer said. “Like that's the thing that I can just close my eyes and think about her smiling, and it's kind of a grounding, kind of gets you back to neutral. Not thinking about golf, not thinking about the last shot, the next shot, just thinking about her and her smile.”

    So, Springer – the protector and provider – is also a PGA TOUR member. It’s been a journey, he said, and he wasn’t sure when this particular dream was going to be realized. But there’s been so many people in his corner. Springer knows it and he hears it – people on-site were wishing him well, and he saw on social media the support he and his family had. It helped.

    “I’ve worked essentially my whole life to get into this position," Springer said. "And you dream about it. It's like you don't know exactly when that day will come, but today is the day.”

    A day for Springer. A day for Sage. A day when a dream came true.

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