[PHOTO: Stacy Revere]

Hayden Springer didn’t choose to be best known as a golfer with a tragedy in his life. Last November, his 3-year-old daughter, Sage, died from complications due to the genetic Trisomy 18 disorder. Only a month later, Springer emerged from PGA Tour Q-School Final Qualifying with a top-five finish that earned him his tour card for 2024.

It was a story of remarkable resilience, and now Springer has a golf tale that, if not anywhere close to what he’s overcome, says a lot about what he can endure.

Springer, 27, entered the first round of the John Deere Classic having missed the cut in six of his past seven starts, though he’d shown progress by notching a T-10 last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. At TPC Deere Run, he reached a level he’s never found before.

With eight birdies and two eagles – including a an unexpected 50-metre pitch-in for eagle at 17 and birdie at 18 – Springer shot a 12-under-par 59 on the par-71 course. The score gave him a four-shot lead over Harry Hall as he closed his round.

With this latest feat, the once-magic number of golf is becoming a bit more routine. Just two weeks ago, Cameron Young shot an 11-under 59 in the Travelers event – the first time in PGA Tour history the number has been achieved twice in three weeks. It also was the second 59 scored at Deere Run, where Paul Goydos pulled it off in 2010.

Overall, 14 players have combined for 15 sub-60 rounds on tour, with Jim Furyk having done it twice.

Springer, who hadn’t shot lower than 61 in his life, said he remembered seeing Goydos’ feat. He would have been 13 at the time. “I know I was watching it,” he said. “I don’t really know much.”

Springer’s 59 will be memorable for its start and finish. After a par on the first, he eagled the par-5 second and followed with four straight birdies. When he also birdied the eighth and ninth, Springer had set the course record of eight-under 27 for the nine.


At that point, making “only” four more birdies seemed wholly possible. “I thought about it,” Springer said. “But just trying to… like always, take it one shot at time and be patient… I still got to go make birdies to be able to even do it. Just try not to get ahead of myself. But I was thinking about it.”

Five straight pars, however, killed the flow, though Springer said the six-foot putt he made for par at the 14th rejuvenated him. He notched a birdie at 15 by making an 18-footer, and then came the skilful and lucky pitch-in at the par-5 17th.

“I didn’t ever think I would make that shot really, but it kind of changed the momentum to actually be able to go shoot 59,” Springer said.

A good number of pros have gone into an 18th hole with a chance at shooting 59. Far more have failed than succeeded. Springer seized the chance by hitting a 282-metre drive, his 142-metre approach to 12 feet, and draining the putt. He celebrated with a fist pump and smile before depositing the ball into his pocket.

“I feel like that’s one the rare things in golf, so to kind of have that opportunity and pull it off, it feels pretty special,” Springer said.

This is only Springer’s 19th start on the PGA Tour. He played in college at Texas Christian University, but has spent most of his time on smaller tours, with only 10 starts on the Korn Ferry, where he’s made four cuts.

This season, Springer finished T-3 in the Puerto Rico Open, but had struggled until last week’s T-10 in Detroit. He credits the improvement with getting back to working with the coach from his childhood, Rosey Bartlett, who identified some setup issues. “Felt like I needed to get something going, so she was able to help me,” he said.

Springer was, of course, asked about the impact that the death of his daughter has had on his approach to life and golf.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ve had some challenging things happen… But at the end of the day I also want to compete and I love doing that. I think that that drives me to want to make that putt or want to shoot low scores more than anything.”

Sub-60 rounds in PGA Tour history

58 – Jim Furyk, final round, 2016 Travelers Championship

59 – Al Geiberger, second round, 1977 Memphis Classic

59 – Chip Beck, third round 1991 Las Vegas Invitational

59 – David Duval, final round, 1999 Bob Hope Invitational

59 – Paul Goydos, first round, 2010 John Deere Classic

59 – Stuart Appleby, final round, 2010 Greenbrier Classic

59 – Jim Furyk, second round, BMW Championship

59 – Justin Thomas, first round, 2017 Sony Open

59 – Adam Hadwin, third round, 2017 CareerBuilder Challenge

59 – Brandt Snedeker, first round, 2018 Wyndham Championship

59 – Kevin Chappell, second round, 2019 Military Tribute at Greenbrier

59 – Scottie Scheffler, second round, 2020 The Northern Trust

59 – Cameron Young, third round, 2024 Travelers Championship

59 – Hayden Springer, first round, 2024 John Deere Classic