This is the story of a renaissance woman who had two careers on the LPGA Tour-one in which she qualified for the Hall of Fame and one in which she came back to remind everyone just how good she really was.
From 1962-75, Sandra Haynie won 39 tournaments on the LPGA Tour. Two years later, at the age of 34, she left golf. The reasons? An ulcer, brought on by the pressure of competitions, and a circulation problem in her left hand, caused by years of hitting golf balls-she began competing in amateur tournaments when she was 12-that resulted in arthritis. “I’d come out to the course,” she said, describing those years, “and wish I were someplace else.”
"I thought about my stroke, which had been so good all day. And then I looked at the hole. It looked huge. As soon as I hit the putt, I knew it was good. I didn't even see it go in the hole. I just whooped."
So rather than fight, she surrendered and returned home to Dallas to find, in her words, “the peaceful center that I knew was somewhere inside me-or ought to be.”
During that time, she became mentor to Martina Navratilova, managing the tennis great to her first Wimbledon singles victory in 1978. Known as a cerebral golfer, Haynie taught Navratilova the art of winning and in so doing she became more in control of herself. Haynie’s body recovered, and so did her mind. In 1980, watching Jack Nicklaus win the U.S. Open on television, Haynie wondered what it would feel like to do the same thing. In 1974, she had won the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open within a few weeks of each other, but she was only 29 at the time and didn’t fully appreciate what it meant.
Now at 37, she was having thoughts of staging a comeback. “The only question I had was, ‘Do I really want to do this all over again?’ ” she said in a 1982 interview with The New York Times. “All the traveling, all the pressure of tournaments, being involved in the growing of the women’s tour? Did I want to go through all that stress again? ‘Sandra,’ I said to myself, ‘Are you that crazy?’ And the answer was, ‘Absolutely.’ ”
By 1981, she was playing a full schedule on the LPGA Tour again, and her 40th victory came that year, at the Henredon Classic. In 1982, Haynie closed her career by winning back-to-back tournaments, the Rochester International and the Peter Jackson Classic, which was her fourth career major. She won by making a 10-foot par putt on the 72nd hole to avoid a playoff with Beth Daniel.
Sandra Haynie won 39 tournaments between 1961-76.
Listening to Haynie describe it makes you realize just how strong she was mentally. “I just put my head down and concentrated. I focused on the shot totally,” she said. “I thought about my stroke, which had been so good all day. And then I looked at the hole. It looked huge. As soon as I hit the putt, I knew it was good. I didn’t even see it go in the hole. I just whooped.”
That victory was her last and 42nd. Her knee gave out in 1984, and in 1985 she underwent electrode treatment to deaden the sensitivity in her lower back. She became involved with the National Arthritis Foundation. In 1988, she passed the $1 million mark in career earnings, and at that point, there was nothing left to accomplish. This time she did walk away, but on her terms.