Pro wins with father on the bag
GADSDEN — Bo Hayes drove his cart up the big hill with his father to the Twin Bridges clubhouse after winning the Alabama Open in dramatic fashion Sunday and didn’t mind saying it brought a tear to his eye.
The hometown pro birdied No. 18 twice, first to erase a two-shot deficit on the final hole that forced a playoff and then to beat his two closest friends on the circuit on the first hole of sudden death to claim the biggest of his three wins as a pro.
There were a lot of reasons for him to get emotional. Maybe it was the first time his father got to see him win as a pro. Maybe it was after working for months to put all the pieces of his game together they finally did. Or maybe it was just because he beat a couple of his best buddies.
“I kind of got a little emotional coming up the hill with my dad just because I’ve had some good rounds this summer, but I’ve struggled with some consistency and been working so hard on it,” Hayes said. “It’s the first time this summer that I’ve seen everything kind of come together, which is a really good feeling.
An emotional win at home
“And to do it in Gadsden, where I’m from, with my dad [Bobby] caddying the last round and my mom [Nikki] out there, is pretty special.
“It’s been a tough two years, really. There’s been some really good rounds and some other stuff paid off for me, but really nothing to show for it. It’s just been super-frustrating and you’re almost feeling like you’re beating your head against the wall at some point.
“It kind of got to the point where you didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew after the first round I wanted to take advantage of finally putting myself in a good position from the start.”
Hayes, who grew up in nearby Southside, is the first player to win the Alabama Open in a playoff since Todd Bailey beat Daniel Burns at RTJ Cambrian Ridge in 2009. He played well on the weekend here last year, but his opening-round 73 just left him too far off the pace.
He couldn’t have picked a more comfortable pairing for the final group on a Sunday. He was paired with William Walker III of Tuscaloosa and Drew Mathers of Mobile. They’re always traveling together to mini-tour events and when they’re not chasing the sun they play regular rounds together at Greystone and Shoal Creek.
’I’d say it was a little more intense’
“We were pumped when the tee times came out and it was official we were playing together and we knew it was going to be a fun day,” Hayes said. “We honestly didn’t talk a whole lot today. It was a comfortable pairing, but there wasn’t a whole lot of talk, not as much as a normal day as we’re playing in Birmingham.”
“I’d say it was a little more intense; my heart rate was like 150-155 at one point,” Walker said. “The competition was unreal. Bo and Drew are unreal players. Hat’s off to Bo, winning in the playoff; he played great golf all week.”
All three had pieces of the lead at various points on the back nine and all shared the lead after Mathers made birdie at 14.
Former UAB teammates Walker and Mathers separated themselves with birdies on the par 5 15th to Hayes’ “pretty deflating” three-putt par. Hayes cozied his first putt from the far side of the green to gettable range, then misread his four-footer for birdie, but it forced him to focus better through the close.
Mather pulled away even more with a 20-foot birdie on 17, taking a one-shot lead over Walker and a two-shot cushion over Hayes. It was the last of four birdies in a five-hole stretch, and Hayes admitted the thought briefly crossed his mind he might be extending a hand to one of his buddies at the end.
Wins Alabama Open after three-man playoff
But then things quickly turned.
Mathers’ drive on 18 found the water and it was all he could do to make a seven-footer for bogey to get into the playoff.
Walker two-putted for par and Hayes birdied after hitting a knock-down 8-iron from 148 yards to four feet to send them all back to 18 to start the playoff. “
I birdied 17 and thought you’ve got to hit a good tee shot on 18 and, of course, I didn’t,” Mathers said. “I’d been missing right all day and on 18 you really can’t miss left either, but left would have been a better miss than right.
Win comes with bragging rights over two buddies
“I got quick on the swing. It was just a bad swing and I had quite a few of them today.”
” The three amigos finished regulation in 14-under-par 202. Hayes, the first-round leader, posted a 4-under 68 in the final round — tied for the second best round of the day — while Walker and Mathers both shot 70.
Hayes went right at the pin in the playoff and nearly holed his three-quarter pitching wedge from 139 yards, then made the winning putt from inside three feet after both of his friends missed birdie putts.
It’ll certainly create some conversation when they get together for a casual round again in a couple weeks.
“I’m going to bring it out at some point that I came out on top,” Hayes said. “What good is it if you don’t have a little bragging rights, you know?”
Alabama Open Notebook
Hayes’ two other pro wins were a 2018 Open Golf Atlanta one-day and an Emerald Coast Tour event in 2019 at Timberline … Mathers made the most birdies in the tournament (20) … Hartselle’s Ross Napier was low amateur (T-5 overall) … There has been no decision on where the Alabama Open will be played next year. Among those in the conversation are Greystone G&CC, the RTJ Trail and Auburn University Club.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for East Alabama Sports Today in Calhoun County.
Featured image: Abama-NW Florida PGA section executive director Bart Rottier stands next to Alabama Open winner Bo Hayes. (Photo by al Muskewitz)