Fort Myers, Fla. – Mary Ann Hayward has something to prove this week.
Her own words.
Since winning the 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, the Aurora, Ontario, native has been mired in relative anonymity where USGA championships are concerned. In fact, her last match-play victory in a USGA event was that 2005 title-winner at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas, where she beat Kerry Postillion, 1 up. You might notice something different about her name, too. It’s no longer Lapointe.
So what’s changed?
Hayward has had to acclimate to a new life over the past five years, which has included not only a recent divorce but a new job with the Golf Association of Ontario, as the sport development coordinator for high performance, both of which have kept the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member a wee bit busy.
I struggled with the golf game going back to 2007, said Hayward. I was struggling with some life issues, too.
For two years she kept the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur in the back of her mind. She targeted it as a place where she wanted to come back strong and with a fury. So far, so good through the first round of match play. On Monday, she dominated her match against Char McLear, winning 7 and 5. How much so? Consistently a solid 80-100 yards longer off the tee, the 50-year-old Hayward didn’t miss her first green in regulation until No. 11, her first fairway until the 12th hole, and she was five under par through the first nine holes, with the usual match-play concessions.
Um, everything, said McLear when asked what specifically Hayward did well in the match. I was just outclassed today.
Hayward wasted little time in building an insurmountable lead in her first-ever Senior Women’s Amateur match. She won the seventh, eighth and ninth holes at Fiddlesticks Country Club with birdies thanks to power, finesse and a little luck. On the 330-yard, par-4 seventh hole, Hayward boomed her drive 236 yards, knocked the approach shot to 7 feet left of the flagstick and converted the putt.
On the next hole – a dogleg-left, 356-yard par 4 – Hayward hit her drive over the yawning pond on the left, after which McLear quipped, Can you hit my ball, too, please? before hitting her own drive fat into the water. On No. 9, McLear put two more balls in the water to give Hayward another hole.
Hayward agreed that her distance off the tee provided a huge cushion, especially on the longer par 4s. Sometimes playing with a large lead invites bad habits, but Hayward told herself to really bear down.
I just keep my mind on the execution of the shot. I don’t think about the match so much, said Hayward, who has represented Canada eight times in the World Amateur Team Championships and was inducted into the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.
Hayward had been gearing up for this championship by handily winning the Investors Group Ontario Senior Women’s Amateur Championship title by 10 strokes on her home course, The Club at North Halton, in early August. Later that month, she won the 54-hole Royale Cup Canadian Women’s Senior Championship by seven strokes.
Hayward was grateful to her employer for giving her the chance to play competitive golf again. She took last year off and didn’t seriously pick up the clubs until the end of July.
When I was leaving to go play, all my boss said was, ‘Just give it 100 percent,’ said Hayward, repeating how understanding her employer has been.
As Hayward tooled around the course Monday, the sun shone brightly on her latest addition– a tattoo on her ankle that says ‘Laugh’ in cursive lettering. In some ways it’s cathartic for her. Hayward’s oldest daughter, Kelly, 23, suggested that after Hayward notched her first senior victory, she should celebrate by getting inked. Since Kelly already had a tattoo that said ‘Love,’ and Hayward’s youngest daughter, Robin, has a tattoo that reads ‘Live,’ Hayward opted for ‘Laugh’ so the three of them would be tethered through more than blood: Live. Love. Laugh.
You gotta laugh every day, said Hayward, smiling.
And, of course, you’ve got to play well. A champion is on the prowl for another USGA title, and if the rest of the Senior Women’s Amateur field is wise, they’ll realize she’s found her game.
Just to be back, I’ve got something to prove.
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Web Editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.