A Profile in Courage
As his young daughter continues to fight a rare genetic disorder, and with another child on the way, Hayden Springer is jump-starting his career in South America
By Ryan French
A lot can change in a year. A baby is on the way, and as he and his wife care for a daughter who continues to defy the odds, a player is chasing his dream in South America.
The first long-form story I wrote for the Fire Pit Collective was about Hayden Springer, his wife, Emma and their courageous daughter, Sage, who before birth was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of a third copy of all or part of chromosome 18. Doctors told the Springers their daughter would probably not live 72 hours. Their story touched so many lives that we promised to continue to tell their story.
At this time last year, Springer was preparing to tee it up at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, looking for a career breakthrough. The story we produced appeared on Golf Channel. Hayden, Emma and Sage were living with Hayden’s parents, and Sage faced an unknown future.
Now Emma is pregnant with the couple’s second child; Annie is due in October. The Springers have moved into a new home in the Dallas area, and Sage, now almost 2, continues to fight like crazy. Hayden and Emma talked about how enjoyable going through a “normal” pregnancy is. The calendar for the family of a tour player revolves around events throughout the year. Annie is due around Q-school. “We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” Hayden says.
Although Hayden missed the cut at Torrey Pines, the memories from the week are still fresh for the Springers. Sage took her first plane flight to spend Father’s Day with her dad. The week gave Hayden confirmation that he belonged on the PGA Tour, and he and Emma left with a renewed purpose to do everything possible to get there.
At the end of last year, Hayden went to Korn Ferry Q-school, breezed through the first stage and headed to the second stage in Brooksville, Fla. In the final round, he was inside the number for most of the day but played the last five holes in 1 over, missing out on the final stage and KFT membership by two shots. A tour player has to have a short memory, so Hayden headed to Latinoamerica (a feeder tour of the KFT) Q-school in November.
That tour plays events across South America, and although it offers five KFT cards at the end of the year, it is not a place to make money. With expensive travel and purses that don’t begin to cover the growing costs of staying on tour, it’s almost impossible to play there without financial help. Luckily the Springers had met Robert Mylod after he heard their story on Golf Channel. Mylod’s daughter, Vivi, also has Trisomy 18, and a bond quickly formed between the families. Mylod’s companies — Signal Advisors, Evolve and Bloomscape — adorn Hayden’s shirts and bag, providing the means to pay the bills while Hayden chases the top level of pro golf. “It’s nice to play without worrying every minute about money,” Springer says. You could feel the relief in his words.
Springer has played well on the LA Tour; in 11 events, he has made eight cuts, with four top 10s and $30,251 in earnings. He sits 20th in points, and with a win in the last event, he could sneak into the top 10 and a place in the final stage of KFT Q-school.
Over the last year, Sage has had multiple stays in the hospital fighting infections. The juggling of life with a baby with special needs and a playing career is a balance the Springers navigate daily. Emma and Hayden soak up each moment with Sage and are understandably excited about the addition to their family.
“We live week-to-week,” Hayden says. “We used to live day-to-day.”