For the second time since 2009, Joe Hayden made his move on the back nine to win the Tournament of Champions at Fox Prairie. Hayden won the 2008 Coyote Creek Club Championship in Fort Wayne to qualify for the IGA tournament, and guaranteed his eligibility forever with his 2009 ToC victory. He has since added two more club championships and another Tournament of Champions title to his name. “There are some really good players there, but it just seems to fit my game,” he said of his home course, Coyote Creek.
In 2009, Hayden opened the tournament with a 69 to sit in second heading into the final round. This year, he shot a respectable even par 71 the first day, which put him in fourth and in the second-to-last group away from the leaders. “I’d almost rather be in the second or third to last group because there is no pressure at all,” he explained. “I bogeyed 1, and that took the edge off so I was pretty comfortable the rest of the day.” While he did check the leaderboard on occasion throughout the round, he was unaware of how the leaders stood after 15 when he started to make his move.
Four-time champion Randy Nichols led after his first round
69 and held his lead throughout the entire second round until hole 17. At 15,
Hayden birdied the short par-4 to tie things up at 1-under with Nichols. At the
17th, Hayden sealed up his victory with another birdie. “It was
straight down wind, so I hit a stinger 3-iron and had 177 in. That’s a perfect yardage
for me, so I hit a 7-iron to about 15 feet and had a pretty straight-forward
putt,” he said. That birdie took him to 2-under and caused the first lead
change of the tournament. Nichols took a par at 17 to stay 1-under, and
co-runner-up Joe Mahurin also made a run for it at 17 when he made a 5-foot
birdie putt to keep himself in the game at 1-under. At 18, Hayden just missed
another birdie opportunity. “I missed a 7-foot birdie putt and tapped in for
par. It was an easy putt but I put a terrible stroke on it because I didn’t
want to blow it by,” he said. That miss opened the door for Nichols or Mahurin
to force a playoff. Both competitors landed their approaches within 20 feet of
the final hole with makeable putts. Unfortunately for them neither putt dropped
and Hayden claimed the championship. Hayden finished 71-69=140, and Nichols and Mahurin finished at 69-72=141.
See complete results here.