By Travis Puterbaugh, Curator
When discussions of the G.O.A.T. in women’s golf begin, for good reason the same names always appear at the top of the list: Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright, and Annika Sorenstam.
Whitworth owns the most wins of any golfer on the LPGA or PGA TOUR with 88.
Wright owns 82 wins and 13 Major Championships, good for 2nd behind only Patty Berg (15).
Sorenstam won 72 tournaments and 10 Major Championships in a brilliant 13-year span.
After that is where the fun begins when examining different careers and trying to place them historically.
The LPGA’s Top Ten in all-time wins is also represented by three of the original 13 Founders – Berg, Louise Suggs, and Babe Zaharias – and is rounded out by a mixture of stars from several different eras: JoAnne Carner, Sandra Haynie, Nancy Lopez, Betsy Rawls, and Karrie Webb.
Of these eleven women, Haynie’s career seems to be one of the most overlooked and worthy of examination among the bunch. A 42-time winner on the LPGA Tour and a 4-time Major Champion, Haynie securely ranks 9th all-time on the LPGA’s all-time wins list. Webb, now a part-time player on the Tour, would need one more win to tie Haynie. Furthermore, given the continued parity on the LPGA Tour, it seems unlikely that anyone from the current era can ever approach her total. Inbee Park, one of the greatest golfers of her generation, still trails Haynie by 21 career victories.
So why does Haynie seem to get overlooked?
A two-time Texas Amateur champion, Haynie turned professional in 1961 at the age of 18. Her first victory came a year later in her home state at the Austin Civitan Open where she defeated Hall of Famer Mickey Wright by one stroke. She bookended her career with one last victory 20 years later against another Hall of Famer, Beth Daniel, in a Major Championship: the Peter Jackson Classic.
Haynie is one of only five women – along with Amy Alcott, Patty Berg, Donna Caponi, and Juli Inkster – to have won a Major Championship in three different decades. She is part of an elite group of seven women to have won both the LPGA Championship and U.S. Women’s Open in the same year, only the second golfer to do so after Wright.
Haynie’s record against Whitworth – who many consider the G.O.A.T. – is impressive, as the 88-time winner finished second to Sandra Haynie 11 times over the course of their careers. Although Haynie finished runner-up to Whitworth 15 times, she boasted a 4-0 record against Whitworth in playoffs.
Haynie won the LPGA’s Player of the Year Award just one time, in 1970, but she came close again in 1974 when she won six tournaments, including the two Major Championships contested that year. JoAnne Carner, who also won six tournaments in 1974, ended up sweeping the Player of the Year, money winner, and Vare Trophy honors.
So how is it that one of the game’s great champions does not seem to receive her due? The answer could be because, by design, Haynie never sought attention or acclaim in the first place.
“She was a fabulous player, but she never really looked for the headlines,” says 1966 LPGA Championship winner Gloria Ehret. “We understood that she was a player to be reckoned with, but she wasn’t about the showmanship.”
World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 2022 inductee Susie Maxwell Berning, like Haynie a four-time Major Champion on the LPGA Tour, offers a similar assessment of her contemporary.
“Sandra was a very quiet, private person, and not at all flamboyant,” Berning says. “Haynie just played golf. She was a quiet, great player.”
A great player who let her results on the golf course do the talking for her.
“Because I played the game quietly, there wasn’t anything flashy about my career,” Haynie says. “From an early age, my first instructor, A.G. Mitchell, just said to me ‘this is your job’ and to treat it as such. Once I was done at the golf course, I closed the door to my office.”
Berning believes that compared to some of her peers, Haynie’s accolades just happened to get lost in the shuffle.
“She was playing at a time when you had Whitworth, Wright and Carol Mann all playing as well as she was playing,” Berning says, “and I think that for some reason, the press seems to pick out a person and give them more attention than someone else who is equally as good.
“I know this: Sandra Haynie and JoAnne Carner won about the same number of tournaments. Carner got a heck of a lot more press than Sandra Haynie. Carner was ‘Big Mama’ and more flamboyant on the course than Sandra.”
From 1962-1975, Haynie won 39 times on the LPGA Tour. Then in 1977 – the same year she earned induction into the LPGA Hall of Fame – Haynie significantly scaled-back her tournament schedule due to an accumulation of lingering injuries. From 1977-1980, Haynie appeared in only 17 official events.
She returned to a full-time schedule in 1981, playing 25 events and winning one – the Henredon Classic – before winning in back-to-back events in 1982 at the Rochester International and the Peter Jackson Classic for the final victories of her career.
Her success after returning to the Tour full-time came as no surprise to Ehret.
“She could go without playing for three or four months, not even touch a club, then come back, and it was like she never left,” Ehret says. “So, did it surprise me that she could come back and be able to win again? Heavens no. Not at all.”
For her own part, Haynie seemed to revel in the successful final act of her career.
“I had a much greater appreciation when I came back the second time, more joy if you will, and really enjoyed the game a lot more,” Haynie says. “I had played golf since I was 11 at a reasonably high level at every age, and the break did me a world of good to get physically and mentally healthy and find a new perspective in my life. I so enjoyed those times when I came back, and it was some of the best golf I ever played. I don’t think I treated it any differently as far as seeking more attention, I just found greater joy in my game.”
Injuries once again forced Haynie out of competition over the next few years before she finally called it a career in 1989 after nearly 30 years as a professional. Despite not having nearly the notoriety or name-recognition of many of her peers, Haynie is comfortable with her place in golf history and a career she experienced her way and on her terms.
“I’ve just been so fortunate to have had the career I did, and I don’t know that there is one thing I regret,” Haynie says. “I don’t know what I would have done differently. To this day, I just have to be me, and whatever that perception of others is, it is. But I have to be comfortable with me and I think I have just lived my life that way.”