Haymes Snedeker, Brandt’s older brother, competes in U.S. Am and marvels at talent
PARAMUS, N.J. – Haymes Snedeker is 46 years old; a young 46 on most days, but on this Tuesday afternoon, he was feeling every bit his age.
Snedeker, the older brother of Brandt Snedeker, had just wrapped up his first U.S. Amateur in two decades, posting 19 over in 36 holes around The Ridgewood Country Club, the A.W. Tillinghast gem that the gray-bearded Snedeker called “the toughest golf course I’ve ever played.”
“It’s almost like I’ve been in a foxhole for two days – guns going off, a little bit of shellshock,” Snedeker said. “I think it’ll take a couple days to appreciate the fact that I’m here. I didn’t just want to make it here; I wanted to play well, and I put a little too much pressure on myself.”
That competitive spirit still burns inside the older Snedeker brother, even after all these years, and even as the talent gap has widened considerably between Snedeker and today’s college studs. Distance especially; Haymes reckoned he had about 220 yards into at least five par-4s at Ridgewood.
Following Haymes’ opening 83, what he estimates is the worst score he’s ever posted in a USGA championship, he received a text from Brandt, who at 41 has experienced something similar out on Tour.
Part of Brandt’s message: “Welcome to my world.”
“Everyone’s 20 years younger and they hit the ball 30 yards past you, and they’re in good shape, and they’re just better all around. He’s like, ‘I have to play four great rounds of golf, flawless, to beat these kids,’ and I feel the same way. These college kids, I’ve never seen anything like it. They have no fear … and I’m a shell of my former self.”
Born five years before Brandt, Haymes was an all-conference player his senior year at Ole Miss in 1999, but unlike his brother, now a nine-time Tour winner and Ryder Cupper, Haymes knew his professional prospects were limited. A four-time academic All-American, Haymes remained amateur and instead went to law school and eventually became one of the nation’s youngest municipal court judges at age 32.
In his 20s, he teed it up in a few USGA championships, reaching the Round of 16 at the 2002 U.S. Amateur Public Links, the year before Brandt won, and that same year qualifying for both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur.
He did turn pro briefly after winning Big Break in 2008 – he only sent in an application at the urging of his brother – but he logged just one Tour start, alongside Brandt at the 2009 event at Disney. He got his amateur status back a few years later and qualified for the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur, his last USGA event prior to this week.
Now the father of two teenagers and the co-founder of a successful real estate development firm in Fairhope, Alabama, Haymes probably didn’t have the type of competitive golf career that he once envisioned as a kid, but looking back, it’s hard to complain as he stands just off the 18th green at Ridgewood having just teed it up with the best amateurs in the world – and as he notes, less than 10 years from being eligible for the U.S. Senior Amateur.
“I’ve gotten to follow Brandt for all these years, so that’s kind of filled the void for golf,” said Haymes, who attends a few of Brandt’s tournaments a year and caddied for his brother when he was an amateur at the 2004 Masters. “I live vicariously through him.”
One void that remains, however, is that of their parents, Larry and Candice, who died about eight months apart – Candice of a heart attack in October 2020, and Larry the following June from cancer.
The Snedekers were a close-knit family. They loved the time they spent together, their worlds happily revolving around Brandt’s remarkable career on the golf course. That was part of the reason Haymes didn’t chase pro golf harder; after college, he returned home to care for his parents after major surgeries.
“It’s been tough,” Haymes says. “We think about them every day. You know, we both play golf wanting to make our parents proud. Other than just our own pride and competitive nature, you want to make your parents proud, and I think that’s been a difficulty for both of us not having them here. We’re still making them proud, but they’re not around to really see it. … There’s nothing more I would’ve loved than to have them here. They would’ve been here and eaten up every second.”
Haymes especially misses the phone calls. Whether it was Brandt leaving the golf course or Haymes leaving the office, they’d often call mom and dad.
Instead, on Monday evening, it was Brandt reaching out to his brother over the phone. They didn’t have many highlights to go over, but Brandt told Haymes not to worry, to go out Tuesday and just “enjoy the walk.”
“Soak it up,” Haymes recounts, “because you don’t know if you’ll ever make it back.”
Though Ridgewood had left him feeling beaten, both physically and mentally, Haymes knows he’ll soon relish this moment.
After the journey his career has taken him on, how could he not?