Former PLAYERS champ Hayes passes away at 69
July 17, 2018
By Jim McCabe , PGATOUR.COM
- July 17, 2018
Mark Hayes' birdie on the 72nd hole at THE PLAYERS 1977
In weather conditions so ferocious that one competitor shot 91 and 47 others posted second-round scores in the 80s, it was only fitting that one of the PGA TOUR’s quietest and calmest players, Mark Hayes, stepped into the spotlight to win the 1977 PLAYERS Championship.
“That was him, such a quiet star,” said Doug Tewell, who grew up in Oklahoma with Hayes, traveled the PGA TOUR with him, and considered him one of his closest friends. “I asked him once how he didn’t show his nerves, how he kept so calm, and he told me, pointing to his gut, ‘You’ve got to keep (the nerves) in here and not let them percolate to your hands.’ ”
Hayes, whose win at the 1977 PLAYERS was the last of three PGA TOUR wins in a solid 19-year career, died Monday at the age of 69 in Edmond, Oklahoma. Hayes’ death was confirmed by his oldest brother, Larry Hayes, the General Manager at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas. He was 69 and had been ill for more than a year.
“He had a great career and was a big influence on me,” said Tewell, a four-time PGA TOUR winner who was inducted along with Hayes into the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame in October 2017. Tewell told John Rhode of the golfoklahoma.org website that Hayes was the junior golfer everyone was chasing back in the 1960s, but no one, not even Tewell, could catch him.
“Yet, we were friends. I’m not even sure we really knew we were rivals.”
Having been a star player for famed Oklahoma State golf coach Labron Harris, Hayes made it onto the PGA TOUR and had four top 10s in 34 starts during his rookie year, 1974. In 1976 he won twice, at the Byron Nelson Golf Classic and Pensacola Open, but besides his notable bucket hat, what put Hayes in the spotlight was the first PLAYERS Championship to be played in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Mark Hayes' locker in the Champions' locker room at TPC Sawgrass. (Brad Mangin/PGA TOUR)
More than the brutal second-round conditions at Sawgrass Country Club, what then PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman vividly remembers was the way Hayes sealed his win. “He hit his (approach) shot over the green on the last hole, into a bunker,” said Beman, “and he hit absolutely one of the best bunker shots I’ve ever seen.” Trying to hold off Mike McCullough, Hayes stood over his ball, which had run through a flat bunker to the back but stayed on the downslope up against the rough. Calmly, as was his nature, Hayes, choked down on a mid-iron and played a shot-maker’s shot, a bump-and-run through the sand. The ball hopped across a small strip of rough down to about 4 or 5 feet and with a round of 72, Hayes finished at 9-over 289 to win by two over McCullough, who had started the fourth round tied with Tom Watson, one ahead of Hayes.
And just where did Tewell find Hayes, to finally offer congratulations? “He was in his work shop at home, changing his shafts in his irons,” said Tewell. “I said, ‘Are you nuts? You just won THE PLAYERS Championship.’ But that was Mark. He was a perfectionist.”
There’s a special place in Beman’s heart for Hayes, for the 1977 PLAYERS was the first to be played where the PGA TOUR is headquartered. “The conditions were tough,” said Beman of 40-mph winds that caused havoc in Round 2 and produced the highest aggregate score by a winner in the 45 years of THE PLAYERS. “But he was calm, and he played well.”
Later in 1977, Hayes had a memorable second-round 63 at Turnberry – then an Open Championship record – to get within two of Roger Maltbie’s lead. But he closed 72-73 as that championship morphed into Watson’s unforgettable “Duel in the Sun” win over Jack Nicklaus.
Hayes likely would have qualified for the 1977 Ryder Cup, only rules at the time mandated that players had to have five years of service, which precluded his selection. But when Watson withdrew from the 1979 team, Hayes replaced him and was part of the Americans’ 17-11 win over the first European Team at The Greenbrier. Hayes lost both his team matches, but won, 1 up, in singles over Spain’s Antonio Garrido.
Though he never won again after the 1977 PLAYERS, Hayes had a productive career. He was easily within the top 125 on the money list for 14 straight years. By 1993 he was a part-time player on the PGA TOUR and focused on his golf course design and construction business. Hayes returned to play two seasons on the PGA TOUR Champions, 2000 and 2001, but was more committed to his business ventures.
“He was just a good man, who provided well for his family (wife Jana, sons Ryan and Kelly) and was a dear friend,” said Tewell. “I’m going to miss him dearly.”
Besides his wife and two sons, Hayes is survived by a grandchild.
Mark Hayes won three times on the PGA TOUR, which includes his win at the 1977 PLAYERS Championship. (Michael O'Bryon/PGA TOUR)