That new motivation set him up for a strong sophomore season, both in Oklahoma and on the national junior circuit, leading to his scholarship offer from OSU. Meanwhile, Willie was catching fire on the Champions Tour.
It started with Willie's 12th-place finish at the Senior PGA Championship last May, the day before Hayden won the OJGT Oklahoma's Best Classic. Then Willie won twice in three Champions Tour events last August and September.
For the first win, at the Dick's Sporting Goods Championship, Hayden was watching on TV at Oak Tree National. He originally went there to practice, but when dad was in contention, plans changed.
“There were probably 25 people there watching, and when he made that putt to win, it was awesome,” Hayden said. “He says he likes to watch me play well more than he likes to play well, and after that, I feel the same way about him.
“I like to watch him succeed a lot more than I like to succeed.”
Willie, of course, finds himself far more emotionally involved when he's watching Hayden play than when he's playing himself.
“Oh, it's terribly stressful,” Willie said. “Anytime you're watching your son play, you just pull your hair out. But it's even sweeter when they succeed, for sure.”
When Willie isn't on the road playing in tournaments, he and Hayden practice together every chance they get.
“We're really competitive, and when we play, it's like we're practice buddies,” Hayden said. “We practice every single day when he's home. He's been my teacher since I was little, so we're always out there together working on stuff and competing against each other. It's really fun and helpful for both of us.”