Tom and Michael Hyland share their passion and talent for the game
The list of famous fathers and sons is endless, and it includes Kirk and Michael Douglas; Jerry and Ben Stiller; Tug and Tim McGraw; and the Griffeys, Ken Sr. and Ken Jr.
Tom and Michael Hyland aren’t on that national list, but around the South Jersey golf scene, they are clearly at the top.
Michael Hyland, 36, was part of a select group to qualify for the 115th U.S. Amateur in July. Later in the summer, his dad, Tom, 59, qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur, held in Egg Harbor Township, NJ in late September.
According to the United States Golf Association, the Hylands were the first father-son duo to qualify for the events in the same year since 2012. The father-son feat has been accomplished about 25 times since both tournaments started being held in the same year in 1955, an association spokesman said.
Less than 48 hours after Tom Hyland earned a berth in the Senior Amateur, his son captured his first New Jersey Mid-Amateur title.
“An incredible week for Team Hyland,” the younger Hyland said after winning the 32nd NJSGA Mid-Amateur at Arcola Country Club in Paramus, NJ on Sept. 10.
“As good a week as I can remember,” agreed Tom Hyland, who carries a one-handicap and has a remarkable 16 career hole-in-ones.
There were 8,000 golfers trying to qualify for the U.S. Amateur. Mike Hyland was one of 312 to make the cut. He played in two previous U.S. Amateurs, back in 1999 and 2000, “and I didn’t even come close to making it again until this year,” he said.
This time, Hyland qualified while playing at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, NJ, where nearly 90 golfers vied for three Amateur spots. Thirty-six holes determined their fate.
Hyland shot a 72—including a hole in one, the sixth of his career, by acing a nine-iron on the 166-yard third hole—and a blistering 67 to finish third, avoiding a playoff by one shot.
“It was a LOT of stress,” he said.
He tuned up for the qualifying rounds Aug. 11 by setting a course record with a personal-best 62 at his home course, Little Mill Country Club in Medford, NJ.
That’s right. He shot a SIXTY-TWO.
Not bad for someone who had to be talked into playing in the Amateur qualifier by his dad.
“He’s a huge influence on me,” Mike Hyland said. “I probably have the lowest self-esteem of any golfer out there. Three years ago, I wanted to quit because I could not hit a drive.”
His dad built up his confidence. So did lessons from Mike Mack, the PGA pro at the Burlington Country Club in Westampton, NJ.
“I really owe 100 percent of my summer [success] to Mike Mack,” Hyland said. “I was at a really low point in the last three years. I couldn’t hit a driver on the mat, and I went over to Mike Mack three days a week for three weeks, and he took so much time out of his schedule to help me out. We finally got it to be where it needed to be.”
Hyland played well in the U.S. Amateur qualifying rounds at Olympia Fields Country Club in suburban Chicago, shooting a 75 and 73. It was the first time he had been in the event in 15 years.
“It’s a lot different being 36 versus 20. A hell of a lot less pressure on you. You’re not expected to do good at all,” Hyland said. “The college kids hit it SO FAR nowadays. It’s insane. By the end of the week, I was happy [with my game]. I represented myself well and the Philadelphia area. I had two bad nines, two good nines.”
Playing alongside Antonio Murdaca for the 36 holes, Hyland shot a 148; the 64-player cut was at 143.
“One thing I can say, I played with the guy who won the Asian amateur and also played in the Masters this year, and I beat him head to head, which was pretty cool,” Hyland said of Murdaca, a 20-year-old who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur by seven shots last year. “I heard a lot of really neat stories from him about the Masters and what his plans are going forward. He’s going to make a lot of money because he’s so good.”
Tom Hyland introduced his son to golf at a young age.
“I started playing in tournaments when I was seven or eight years old,” Hyland said from his home in Medford, where he lives with his wife, Deirdre, and their two children, Mackenzie, nine, and Logan, eight. “I can’t thank him enough for how much money he spent… I traveled to South Carolina during weekends my senior year [at Holy Cross High] to play in tournaments over the winter break.”
When he began high school, Mike Hyland said, his father sent him to Burlington Country Club, where he received instruction from Mack. It worked. Hyland blossomed into one of the best golfers in South Jersey history, earning a golf scholarship to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
At 19, he became one of the youngest players to ever win the New Jersey Amateur, taking the title in 1998.
The Hylands, long-time members of Little Mill and winners of several father-son tournaments over the years, have similar games.
“We’re not very good at the straight shot, but he taught me how to curve the ball both ways,” Michael Hyland said. “We can get out of trouble—and that had a lot to do with growing up at Little Mill because there were always a lot of trees and a lot of trouble. You learned how to work the ball really hard, left to right, and right to left. And he was a big influence on that.”
Tom Hyland, whose home sits on the second tee at Little Mill, says his son is giving him too much credit.
“It’s not so much what I taught him, but kind of a function of the course,” Tom Hyland said. “We were lucky enough to grow up at Little Mill. It’s a wonderful golf course, and it has woods on both sides of every hole, so you have to learn how to curve the ball to get it back into play. When I was a kid, the older guys showed me how to curve the ball, and then I showed Michael a little bit, but his main instructor is Mike Mack. He’s been his instructor since he was a teenager.”
As for the U.S. Amateur, Michael Hyland said it was his ninth USGA event. “I would say I’ve had eight heartbreakers,” he said. “It’s nice to make it, but it would be really nice to go far in it. That’s the monkey on my back; it separates the really good national players versus somebody like me whose name isn’t that well-known nationally because I can’t get through.”
But he gained a huge measure of satisfaction by winning his first New Jersey Mid-Amateur (for those 30 and over) championship on Sept. 10, becoming one of only a handful of golfers to capture both the New Jersey Amateur and the state Mid-Amateur.
“It’s pretty neat to be in that company,” said Hyland, who, along with his wife, works as a realtor for the Berkshire-Hathaway’s Bertsch Team in Medford.
He had lost in the semifinals in his previous two tries in the state Mid-Amateur. This time, Hyland had all the answers—he had six birdies, including a 60-foot putt on the first hole, in the last round—and won in match play.
“Played 90 holes in three days,” he said, smiling. “That’s a lot of golf for an old man like me.”
Despite his recent surge, Hyland won’t be challenging Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy any time soon. At 36, he has no aspirations of turning pro. When he was younger, he played in pro events from 2002-04.
“That’s past me,” he said. “My whole life is my kids and my family right now. I want to see them succeed at whatever they want to do.”
And he’ll be by their sides.
“My daughter is on a travel softball team,” Hyland said, “so her 60-game travel schedule next year will definitely take a toll on my golf game.”
Photographs courtesy Golf Association of Philadelphia