Golf’s larger than life Dale Hayes inducted into SA Hall of Fame

Legendray SA golfer Dale Hayes talks to the City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba during the trophy presentation during day 4 of the 2017 Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
Legendray SA golfer Dale Hayes talks to the City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba during the trophy presentation during day 4 of the 2017 Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
Image: Petri Oeschger/Sunshine Tour

As a golf personality in this country Dale Hayes has no par.

The larger than life Hayes’s contribution to the sport was recognised here on Wednesday when he was inducted in the South African Hall of Fame.

Hayes‚ whose star briefly shone brightly as a go-getting young professional‚ later established himself as one of the authoritative commentators on the game‚ as well as one of the finest after sunset raconteurs.

“I tried to figure out a way of sounding humble. But I’m very proud and buck to be here‚” Hayes beamed at the start of his induction speech.

He was quick to point out though that there are other players deserving to be inducted ahead him‚ including four-time Open winner Bobby Locke.

Hayes‚ who turned 66 in July‚ was a precocious talent‚ recording his first hole in one at the age of nine. He went on to win the Swiss‚ Italian‚ French‚ Spanish and South African Opens between 1975 and 1979.

His touch deserted him‚ especially around the greens‚ and by the age of 30 his career as a professional was effectively over. It‚ however‚ served to sharpen his focus.

“My failure drove me to do the things that I did‚” said Hayes.

A strong media presence‚ especially as a broadcaster‚ as well as his ownership of the Zwartkop Country Club kept him at the forefront of the game in this country.

“I think often those people get forgotten. A lot of time we tend to forget administrators‚ club professionals‚” said Hayes.

“We don’t give them the credit they deserve for growing the game. I think it is so important that every single person gets the opportunity to play this game.”

He paid tribute to his family for their role in maintaining his elevated status in the sport.

“I accept this not just on behalf of myself but the Hayes family‚” he said.

“I would not be here if it were not for my family. [Collectively] the different members of my family have been members of the PGA for 225 years. Seven of us.

“My father and my brother in February next year would have been at Zwartkop for 106 years.

“My father has passed on‚ my brother still works there‚ I work there‚ my wife works there‚ my son‚ my nephew‚ my ex-wife works there. You tell me I don’t have courage‚” said Hayes amid his familiar chuckle.

Hayes’s engaging and sometimes offbeat television persona has made him a popular member of the golf firmament.

“I want to take the opportunity to thank Trevor Quirk.

Back in the old days when the TV stand was next to the 18th fairway I managed to climb up to the top and he put a microphone in front of me. That’s how I got involved in television.”

Nine-time Major winner Gary Player paid tribute to Hayes.

“Dale Hayes really and truly deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He owns Zwartkop and has been a wonderful TV commentator and is the funniest guy on the first tee. He’s been a wonderful ambassador for this country‚” Player said.

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