The last of the five places awarded from the Classification School To be able to play in 2024 on the PGA Tour, the great world golf circuit, fell to Hayden Springer, despite three bogeys in the final seven holes. The young man from Nashville, the birthplace of honky tonks, was the one who grabbed all the headlines for the tragedy that had recently befallen him.
A month ago, Springer lost her eldest daughter Sage, aged three. The little girl died on November 13 due to her disorder, the disease known as Trisomy 18, an alteration of that chromosome, which generates a third copy of those carriers of hereditary factors, an anomaly that affects 1 in every 6,000 live births and whose Life expectancy barely reaches a year. 50 percent die in the first two weeks.
“I thought a lot about her during the last lap, happy thoughts”, continued in Florida with the passport to glory in hand. “He was just thinking about her smile. It’s like he can close his eyes and think of her smiling. And it’s a kind of grounding, which brings you back to neutrality.” It was the second golf tournament he had played since the child’s funeral.
Springer, 29 years old, also father of Annie, A baby who is still barely a year old, found meaning in her life that Monday. Playing in the League of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and company had been a perennial dream, ever since he abandoned the rest of American sports at the age of 8 to focus on golf. And his passion increased when he went to high school. His family had moved to Trophy Club, Texas, and he ended up at Byron Nelson High School, after which the legend of the 1940s is named. From there he went to Texas Tech and then to Texas Christian University, the auditorium that taught Charles Coody, where his great success was winning the 2019 Big 12 with a one-shot lead over Viktor Hovland.
On the campus of the technological university I met Emma, his wife, who played on the women’s golf team. They got married right after graduation, in August 2019, and within a few months, Emma became pregnant. Hayden had just turned professional. And although he started in smaller circuits, his dreams were limitless. In May 2020, according to The Fire Pit Collective, she underwent a routine ultrasound and doctors discovered that the umbilical cord instead of two blood vessels had three. She had, also, cysts on her brain. Just a month later, an amyocentesis diagnosed that the baby had trisomy 18.
The news was a blow. They didn’t even unpack the crib they had bought when they found out about the condition of Emma, who is a nurse, and the questions multiplied. Why them? How long will it survive?
Barely two kilos at birth
Springer’s concentration was undermined. Bad news and bad results walked hand in hand for months. In October, Sage was born by cesarean section. I weighed just over two kilos. But the girl was breathing. “Hayden and I started crying. We couldn’t believe what was happening. It was a miracle,” Emma told American journalist Ryan Frances.
With a feeding tube inserted in the nose and against the prognosis, Sage entered a house that filled her with joy. In January 2021, the little girl underwent heart surgery that lasted 15 hours and although she had not gained weight in those months of life, she survived. She spent 70 days in the hospital, a tracheotomy was performed, the medical team went out of their way for her, Springer’s golf was ostracized during those months.
“She was special,” Springer remembers. “Very special. We will miss her forever. There is no way around it, but she was strong. She was a fighter. We always said she had strength of heart and that will stay with us forever.”
In a life lesson, Sage stayed alive for almost three more years, until November. He fed every four hours, gaining weight up to three kilos around June 2021. Springer had returned to playing and managed to qualify for the US Open in Torrey Pines, which Jon Rahm would end up winning. He didn’t make the cut, but he considered the experience good. It was not until winning the PGA Tour card that he achieved his only notable milestone, along with two victories last September on the PGA Tour of Canada, one of the development circuits; the first in Winnipeg and then two weeks later in Calgary (Canada), a tournament that was the final of the Tour and in which he managed to score a fabulous 62 strokes.
The awards ceremony speech was almost entirely directed at Emma for her work in taking care of the two girls. Minutes earlier, on the 18th green, she was crying helplessly for the possibility that Hayden had already achieved: qualifying to play on the Korn Ferry Tour, the last step before the big league, which she would later achieve in a promotion that was not within her their original plans.
“An example of life”
Two months after that second victory, Sage died. His heart, which had fought a thousand battles – three years and a month – stopped. “She has been an example of life,” the mother recalled on Sunday. “I think she just inspired joy in a lot of people, she really made a lot of people feel joy and smile just by knowing her.”
The Springers have promoted For two years now, there has been a foundation for the study of this disease ‘Extra to Love’ (extra for chromosome 47) to help families whose children suffer from the disease. “We were very fortunate to have people around us… who were able to make it possible for us to receive the care that Sage needed,” Springer said. “Now we just want to contribute and help future families diagnosed with trisomy to give them that opportunity and change the narrative about trisomy. It’s compatible with life. There are always opportunities there. You can live with it. It doesn’t mean it’s not difficult, but it is possible. and we want people to know that and give them those opportunities,” he told the PGA Tour press service last week.