Jay Haas was lining up a putt on the 3rd green during the opening
round of the Wachovia Championship when Marc LeBas, the caddie
for Haas's playing partner, Tom Byrum, circled behind and
half-whispered the news: "Young Bill birdied the 1st hole." Haas
turned to the nearby electronic leader board for confirmation,
and sure enough, there it was: JAY HAAS -1 followed two lines
later by BILL HAAS -1. "I had a grin on my face after that,"
Jay says. "I'll keep that memory."
Having a father and son play in the same Tour event is not that
unusual. Jack Nicklaus and two of his sons, Jackie and Gary, have
done it countless times, as have Raymond and Robert Floyd, and
Dave Stockton and Dave Jr., among others. Even the Haases have
teed it up together on Tour before, at last year's Greater
Greensboro Chrysler Classic. Nevertheless, there was a special
feel to last week's all-in-the-family entry at Quail Hollow Club,
in Charlotte, where David Toms turned the Wachovia into the
walk-over-ya, taking a six-shot lead to the final hole before
stumbling home with a two-stroke victory.
For starters, Charlotte is Haas country. Jay and his wife of 25
years, Jan, lived in the area for five years when he was getting
started on Tour (the Haases moved to Greenville, S.C., in 1983),
and he is still a member at Quail Hollow. As such, Haas was the
unofficial host of the first-year event there. More important,
even though Jay is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career
at the unlikely age of 49, you could almost see him passing the
torch to his 20-year-old son, who was playing on a sponsor's
Haas has two sons (and three daughters), and both boys are top
amateurs. Jay Jr., 22, played for the powerhouse Augusta State
team this year before encountering eligibility problems, but it
is Bill, a junior at Wake Forest, who is coming on strong. The
medalist at the 2002 U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills, where he shot
a 28 for nine holes during one match, Bill lost to eventual
champion and 2003 Masters sensation Ricky Barnes, one up, in the
semifinals. At Quail Hollow, Bill learned that he had been named
the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, and he's ready
to lead the Demon Deacons--coached by his uncle, Jay's brother
Jerry--at the NCAA East Regional this week at Auburn and,
hopefully, on to the NCAA championships May 27-30 in Stillwater,
Okla. After graduating, Bill plans to take dead aim at a pro
career that he can only hope is as long (27 seasons) as his
A tall (6'2"), lean type with an easy smile and a powerful,
textbook swing, Bill has a humble assuredness that shouts PGA
Tour. Soon. "He looks like he belongs right now, except his bag's
not big enough," Tour veteran Brad Faxon said, with a nod at
Bill's college-issue carry bag. "My caddie asked Bill, 'What's
your symbol on the NASDAQ?'"
At the Wachovia, Jay finished at one-over-par 289 to come in
40th, 11 strokes behind Toms. Bill shot 76-75 and missed the cut
by six shots. On the practice range after the first round, Davis
Love III walked up to Jay and asked, "Low Haas?" Jay laughed and
responded, "Low Haas--for today."
Lanny Wadkins, the lead analyst for CBS and a Wake Forest alum,
did some Bill-watching during the second round. Pulling up in a
cart beside the 4th fairway, he spied Jan in her son's gallery,
stopped and gave her a hug. After Bill played a shot to the
green, Wadkins raved about the next great Haas. "He has some
competitive fire, which is cool to see," Wadkins said. "You see a
lot of kids with talent, but nothing that takes them over the
edge. It looks as if Bill has that. Plus, look at the size of his
shoulders--almost like Tiger Woods's. His dad never had that. And
Bill's smart. I watched him on the 2nd hole. It's 140 yards
downhill, and the wind was blowing. Bill chipped a little
seven-iron under the wind left of the pin. Stuart Appleby, in the
group in front, blew it over the green with a full eight-iron."
Bill's old man has been setting the pace for the Haases all
season. Last Friday, Jay holed a long bunker shot for eagle at
the par-5 5th hole. After the round he was asked if he felt old
because he had a son playing in the same tournament. "It doesn't
make me feel old," he said, "just proud."
Jay has plenty to be proud of. After drifting through much of his
late 40s--the PGA Tour no-man's land--he's playing the best golf
of his career on the brink of his 50th birthday. He has two
seconds (the Hope and the Players) and a pair of fifths (the
Match Play and Houston) already this year. At the Hope, Haas was
tied with Mike Weir in the final fairway. Weir laid up on the
par-5 hole, but Haas went for the green and was stunned to see
his four-iron shot splash in the hazard, just short. Haas also
played in the final pairing on Sunday at the Players, with
Padraig Harrington, and shot a 72 that might've been good enough
to win had Love not played the round of his career, shooting a
Haas credits his fine play to an improved short game. Former Tour
player Stan Utley helped Haas get back his old swinging-gate
putting stroke. Bill Harmon, who caddied for Haas earlier in his
career and is such a close friend that Haas named one of his sons
after him, helped Haas upgrade his chipping. "I always thought
Jay was one of the worst chippers on Tour for a player of his
caliber," Harmon says. "It has only taken me 24 years to get him
Now that the senior tour lacks a dominant player, Haas, who turns
50 in December, could be just what the circuit needs, since he's
getting so much better-late-than-never respect. "Curtis Strange
was head and shoulders a more accomplished player during their
careers," says Wadkins, "but now Jay is a much better player than
Curtis. Jay's swing has actually gotten better the last few
Haas, who won the NCAA title for Wake in 1975--a year after
Strange, his teammate, had done it--has had a solid career, with
nine Tour victories and a few close calls in the majors, notably
a tie for third at the '95 Masters. He won the par-3 contest at
Augusta in '96, 20 years after he had won it as an amateur. "As
nice a career as Jay's had, I felt he was a better player than
that," Harmon says. "He never understood how good he was. But I
temper that with the fact that he's the father of five children.
Jay has tremendous balance with his family. Golf is a big part of
his life, but it's not his whole life."
Haas's family is his greatest tribute, although he wisely gives
most of the credit to Jan. "What she has done--raising five kids
while I was gone two thirds of the time--is phenomenal," he says.
At Quail Hollow, where she split her time walking with Bill and
Jay, Jan offered this statistical evidence of how frantic her
child-rearing schedule was: During one year, she said, four of
the kids played on basketball teams and the family averaged 11
games a week.
Jay Jr., a psychology major at Augusta State, is the oldest
child. He was followed by Bill and then the three girls--Hayley,
19; Fran, 15; and Georgia, 11. Fran is into ballet. Georgia plays
softball and basketball and swims. Hayley is the only one of the
Haas girls to play competitive golf. She shot an 83 in the final
round of the state high school tournament last year, her best
score by 15 shots, Jay says. She then put away her clubs for six
months. "If you shot your best score by even four shots, wouldn't
you go out and play the next day?" says Jay, laughing and shaking
The most unpredictable member of this First Family of Nice is Jay
Jr. "If you put the three of them [Jay, Bill and Jay Jr.] on film
and break it down frame by frame, Jay Jr. might have the best
swing of the three," says Augusta State coach Josh Gregory. "Jay
Jr. is as talented a ball striker as you'll see. You watch him on
the range and think, This guy should win every time he tees it
Jay Jr. is finishing his junior year at Augusta State, but he
isn't playing on the golf team this spring because he came up a
few credits short of remaining eligible. He plans to rectify that
in summer school and resume playing in the fall. He's had moments
of brilliance. His final-round 68 helped the Jaguars win the Duke
Classic in October, and he beat his dad for the first time last
fall, during one of their four rounds in three days at Augusta
National. Jay Jr. shot a 67, whipping up on his dad's paltry 71.
"It was very exciting to finally beat him," says Jay Jr., "and
what better place to beat your dad than Augusta?"
Bill and Jay Jr. never had golf pushed on them, even though they
grew up next to the Thornblade Golf Club in Greenville. "When we
were small, we'd go out and play a few holes with Dad, and after
one or two shots we'd go play in the creek," says Jay Jr. "He'd
get mad at us, but he didn't push. He'd ask if we wanted to hit
balls but never said, 'O.K., guys, let's go hit balls.' It was
never a big deal if you didn't want to go."
Having his golf eligibility taken away may help Jay Jr. get
serious about the game. "I always thought, My dad plays golf, and
that's what I'll do--later. I'll play basketball and video games
now," says Jay Jr. "I've got a year of school left, and I really
want to play golf."
Bill Haas had the same feeling last Friday after missing the cut
at Quail Hollow. His father had finished playing in time to plop
down on a hillside behind the 18th green and see Bill wrap up his
round by chipping in from the back fringe. "I definitely don't
think I'm ready [for the Tour] yet," Bill said. "I guess this
experience was great. Then again, it's never fun shooting 76-75."
Later, as the reddish sun set on a warm, humid, oh-so-Southern
evening, Bill stood in the parking lot and rehashed his round
hole by hole for Jay, who particularly enjoyed hearing about
Bill's adventure at the 346-yard par-4 14th, where fans told Bill
that his drive had rolled between the legs of one of the caddies
on the green, skimmed the cup (the flagstick had been pulled) and
run through the green.
Ty Tryon, the 18-year-old pro, walked by as Bill and Jay were
chatting and slowed to give Bill a quick lefthanded handshake.
Shortly after, a female fan holding a pairing sheet politely
stopped a few feet away. Jay alerted his son that she wanted an
autograph. "Is that Ty Tryon's name?" Bill said, looking at her
sheet. "I can hardly read it. I can do better than that."
Bill signed his name and handed the sheet back to the
appreciative woman, who paused, glanced at Jay and guessed that
he was a golfer as well. "Would you sign this, too?" she asked,
holding out the pairing sheet.
Jay Haas, eighth on the Tour's money list, smiled, signed his
name and thanked her for coming to the tournament.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JIM GUND FINISHING TOUCH Bill (left), who hopes to follow in Jay's swing path, debriefed his parents (inset) on his opening 76 at the Wachovia.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JIM GUND PEAK YEARS While Jay (left) has jumped to eighth in Tour earnings, Bill has become the ACC player of the year.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JIM GUND SIBLING STARS Like Bill (right), Jay Jr. (left in insets with Bill, at 18 and 3) has a year of college eligibility left.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE HAAS FAMILY (2) [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: AUGUSTA STATE UNIVERSITY [See caption above]
B/W PHOTO: HY PESKIN (SNEAD)
COLOR PHOTO: PETER HARHOLDT/CORBIS (DESK)
COLOR PHOTO: CBS/COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES (ANDY GRIFFITH)
COLOR PHOTO: FRIEDMAN BENNO/CORBIS OUTLINE (MCCOLL)
COLOR PHOTO: DARRIN HADDAD/TIMEPIX (WINE)
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (BARON DAVIS)
The glossy Wachovia Championship, with its deep corporate
pockets and the big-city energy of Charlotte, instantly
eclipsed the Tour's other North Carolina event, the Oct. 16-19
Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. Here's our take on the
Sam Snead PATRON SAINT Hugh McColl
Host course redesigner THIS YEAR'S Host club member Jay
Davis Love III POSTER BOY Haas
UNC Greensboro undergrad TYPICAL FAN Bank teller
Jaycee TYPICAL VOLUNTEER Branch manager
Beer-bonging behind SEE AND BE SEEN Sipping wine and
the 17th green enjoying jazz at the
International furniture HOST CITY'S International banking
show CLAIM TO FAME center
Mayberry HOST CITY Atlanta, only
ASPIRES TO BE more charming
Attract a couple of TOURNAMENT'S DREAM Supplant the Players
Ryder Cuppers Championship as the
Snead's eight SIGNS OF EXCESS Swank pressroom's
victories silky bunting,
Forest Oaks: jazzy REMODELED Quail Hollow:
risk-reward layout HOST COURSE oppressive U.S.
Fishing contest SIGNATURE PERK Valet parking for
for players caddies
"We always wanted to UNOFFICIAL MOTTO "Who needs the
be part of the Fall Hornets?"
"You see a lot of kids with talent, but nothing that takes them
over the edge," says Wadkins. "It looks as if Bill has that
"As nice a career as Jay's had," says Harmon, "I felt he was
better than that. He never understood how good he was."