Cover Story – Hayden Springer

Cover Story – Hayden Springer

Hayden Springer may not be a name you’re familiar with. But to his family and friends, he is a husband, a father, a son and an inspiration. 

In just a matter of a few weeks, this soon-to-be 27-year-old and his wife, Emma, experienced an emotional whirlwind unlike most people ever will, beginning on November 13 when their daughter, Sage, passed away due to complications of Trisomy 18, a rare genetic disorder. Just 35 days later, Hayden, with his family supporting him the whole way, finished T4 at the PGA TOUR Q-School, securing his card for the 2024 season.

Springer grew up near Trophy Club and attended Byron Nelson High School. Seems apropos given his current profession, doesn’t it?  

After graduating high school, Hayden shoved off to west Texas, where he met his wife in college at Texas Tech. They both played golf for the Red Raiders, but after some consideration, Hayden decided he would likely see more playing time and opportunity if he returned to Fort Worth to finish out his career on the TCU golf team. As a senior in 2019, Hayden captured the Big 12 individual title, beating Oklahoma State’s Viktor Hovland by a shot. 

Just a few months later, Hayden and Emma tied the knot, and Hayden began his professional career. Soon after, Hayden and Emma received the news she was pregnant, and the baby would be due in late 2020. However, after some initial ultrasounds, doctors discovered some abnormalities, which led to further exploration. After several rounds of tests, a diagnosis of Trisomy 18 was reached, which is a genetic disorder that is caused by a third copy of chromosome 18. 

The more devastating news, however, is that almost half the babies who have Trisomy 18 are stillborn. For the other half, the average lifespan is between a couple of days and a couple of weeks. The Springers were thrust into a place no parent should ever have to be. Fear and uncertainly set in as they realized their first child, who they would name Sage, would likely never leave the hospital. 

On October 1, 2020, Sage was born, but the Springers never expected to bring her home. After the C-section delivery, however, Sage began to breathe on her own. At first a few breaths, then a few more. Over the ensuing hours, doctors, who had originally planned for no sort of intervention and to let Sage pass peacefully, began to show some hope that maybe this little miracle could defy the odds. The Springers began to feel a sense of hope, too, and eventually, after Sage spent some time in the hospital gaining strength, the doctors agreed that she and her new family were okay to go home. 

As each day passed, this little fighter became stronger. Though she was equipped with a feeding tube and a lot of uncertainty, the family began to explore options on a hospital that could perform the heart procedure required to ensure Sage would continue to get stronger, But that, proved to be another challenge, as Sage might not be able to make it through the intense surgery. In early 2021, just four months after her birth, she underwent that heart surgery. Sage fought hard and made it through the procedure, but didn’t leave the hospital for a little over two months as she recovered. 

Despite the overwhelming odds, Sage again returned home. But there were still many obstacles to overcome. Feedings, tracheostomy cleanings, along with all the routine things a newborn normally needs. The Springers continued to work; Emma as a nurse, and Hayden began ramping back up his practice routine and playing in tournaments on the mini-tours. And so things went, as Sage kept getting stronger and things in the Springer household began to resemble as much normalcy as they could with a child who needs so much care. The Springers made it work and did so with positivity and their unwavering faith in the Lord, as they felt that this was part of God’s plan for them and their family.  

As the Springer family continued to push through day-by-day, they received another blessing in October of 2022, as they welcomed a second daughter, Annie Claire, to the mix. Still, Sage was requiring around-the-clock care, but continued to fight and grow as her new baby sister joined the crew. 

Hayden kept playing on the All Pro Tour and PGA TOUR Canada, where he saw some success over the course of the 2023 season, winning twice over the summer and again in the Fortinet Cup Championship, which earned him player of the year honors and an automatic Korn Ferry Tour card. Swing coach Robert McMillan, who has been working with Hayden for the last 18 months, challenged his pupil to work hard on developing his wedge play. 

“Prior to heading to the PGA TOUR Canada, I challenged Hayden to develop an elite wedge game,” McMillan said. “l knew if this part of his game improved, he would be successful. 

“We made some changes, and the work paid off big time. Two wins on PGA Canada followed and now a PGA TOUR card. I am looking forward to seeing what we can do out there with the big boys.”

Achieving that goal was undoubtedly a great feeling for the Springers, who had dealt with so much over the last several years. For Hayden, there was one more opportunity on the horizon … but one that unfortunately would come just weeks after Sage’s passing at age three. 

Hayden played in one final All Pro Tour event just a few weeks after Sage passed, a final tuneup for the TOUR Q-School, which could be an opportunity to bypass the Korn Ferry and reach the ultimate goal of playing on the PGA TOUR. After a 4-under 66 in the opening round, Springer fired rounds of 69-68 before rain canceled play Sunday and moved the final round of the Final Stage to Monday. After a 3-under 32 on the outward nine, it looked like that dream might come true. But back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 were one final obstacle to overcome for a man who had been through so much over the previous few weeks. A gutsy bounce-back birdie on 14 got him back in the picture, and despite a bogey on No. 17, a tap-in par was all he needed to finish tied for fourth at 8 under, one shot ahead of Satoshi Kodaira.

Just like the news of the Trisomy 18 diagnosis, followed by Sage’s incredible fight and her tragic passing, this moment was life-changing … but in a good way. A dream realized just weeks after unthinkable tragedy. 

AVIDGOLFER sat down with the newest member of the PGA TOUR and discussed his life on and off the course, and how he used the memory of Sage to steady himself as he realized a lifelong goal, just weeks after heartbreaking loss. 

AVIDGOLFER: What was your college experience like at Tech, and why did you end up back at TCU?

HAYDEN SPRINGER: They were both great experiences. I really like both places. Both made me better overall. I met my wife at Tech and got my first taste of college. Tech is a powerhouse of a program, and I learned a lot. But the reality was I wasn’t getting as much playing time as I wanted. So, after a couple years, I decided I wanted to head to TCU and get more reps. I knew I wanted to play professional golf, and TCU was the best place to prepare for that future.  

AG: Which one do you pull for now? Raiders or Frogs?

HS: I pull for both still, but more Frogs than Raiders.  

AG: What are a couple of your more memorable experiences from playing at TCU?

HS: Obviously winning the Big 12 Championship was great, but we also went to the National Championship my senior year, and that was so great to have that experience with the team. It was at The Blessings up in Arkansas, which is an unbelievable course. And, you know, we had a great team my senior year, we won a couple tournaments, so as a group, that was a lot of fun. 

AG: I imagine the last couple months have been very emotional on both ends of the spectrum. I think it’s an interesting study for someone your age to experience such loss and then such joy in such a short amount of time. What has that been like to go through this all?

HS: It’s been a tough month. Where I’m standing right now it’s hard to wrap my mind around. Had you asked me what I expected my life to be like just a few years ago, I never would’ve thought this is what it would be like. But the contrast of devastation and heartbreak of losing a child to achieving a lifelong dream of playing on the PGA TOUR are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  

AG: You and your wife seem to be very spiritual. How has that helped you get through this? 

HS: We have a strong faith in the Lord, and we have leaned hard into that over the last several years. We feel he’s in control, and even though we may not understand why certain things are happening, we believe he has a plan for us. 

AG: You seem to draw strength not only from the memory of Sage, but also from her incredible resilience against the odds she faced, even in her limited time with you. Would that be fair to say? 

HS: Her life and journey from diagnosis to now, there have been a lot of things that prepared us for these moments. We’ve built strength, patience, persistence and perspective. Her life and our experiences are all part of that journey, and we gained strength and resilience from her. We choose to honor her memory by using that strength and everything she taught us. 

AG: It has to give you a lot of perspective, especially when considering golf can be frustrating and sometimes exhausting, that there are bigger things in life than career and this silly game we play. 

HS: She definitely shined a light on that perspective. It’s something we do, but it’s not everything. Golf is an amazing thing, and something I love to do, but there are far more important things. We all have careers, but she really made me understand at a young age that there are far more important things. Playing developmental tour golf, and mini-tours, I was 23 when we got this diagnosis. So, we got that perspective early, and it’s been a large part of my growth. 

AG: The PGA TOUR can be a grind. How do you think you will be able to draw on those experiences to help as you develop as a player? 

HS: I think the first thing is that my self-worth and my identity aren’t based on any success I have on the TOUR. It’s an avenue to place your time and effort, but at the end of the day, whether you shoot 65 or shoot 75 and miss the cut, it’s not a reflection of who I am as a person. Our journey and Sage’s life have helped me to control my emotions and understand what’s important and where my focus needs to be. 

AG: As you were going through that final round of Q-School, you gave a couple shots back and started hovering around the number. What is your thought process on the course when you are in a pressure-filled environment?

HS: I try to limit the stuff I am thinking about. Even walking down the fairway, I am just trying to think about nothing. But there’s no doubt it’s stressful. But I also realize that those feelings are normal human emotions, and once I become aware of that reality, I tend to play better. 

AG: The bounce-back birdie after the back-to-back bogeys had to be huge for your confidence, right?

HS: Yes. It was huge. It’s hard to not start thinking when I made the back-to-back bogeys. I didn’t know where I stood at that moment, but I did feel a sense of getting it going back in the right direction. Those little moments can build your internal momentum and really help in those final rounds.

AG: I would assume that playing in Canada and notching a couple wins helped you realize you can close.

HS: Those seven events prepared me for those moments on the course. Getting it done in tournaments up there, and that experience in those final groups coming down to the wire is invaluable, even when it comes to sleeping on a lead or knowing you’re in contention. 

AG: Have you done any goal setting yet for being out on TOUR?

HS: Haven’t thought a ton about it, but just overall ideas, I would say just continued growth. There’s a lot more going on out there than on some of the other places I have played. There’s a learning curve there. But as a golfer, I still want to win. I want top 10s, and I haven’t put any numbers on any of that yet. But I want to win, and eventually start getting into some majors. 

AG: What are some of your favorite courses? Had the chance to play any of the heavy-hitters?

HS: Played Augusta National in college.  It’s unbelievable. Amazing property and the whole prestige around it make it just beyond cool. I would say my favorite overall experience is Pebble Beach. We played a college event there four years in a row, and I loved it. Those holes along the water are spectacular. 

AG: Any you haven’t played yet that you want to see?

HS: Some of those major rotation courses like Merion, Whistling Straits and Bethpage Black are all on my list. And I love golf in the northeast, so any of those major courses up that direction I would love to play. 

AG: What about in DFW?

HS: Dallas National is great, but I think one of my favorites in the area is Colonial. I love those parkland-style courses that are on smaller pieces of property. I am really looking forward to seeing the renovation out there. 

AG: Thank you so much for sitting down with us, and good luck on TOUR. 

HS: Thank you. I can’t wait to get out there. 

AVIDGOLFER would like to thank Trophy Club and Robert McMillan Golf Academy for assisting with this feature. You can learn more about Trisomy 18 or donate at