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Jay Haas remained a significant factor on the PGA Tour late into his forties. His nine victories are overshadowed by the way he carries himself on and off the golf course.

 

pf_title.gifSince 1976 Jay Haas has been a regular on the PGA Tour. Introduced to golf by his uncle Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters champion, Haas has played steadily for many years. Perhaps his greatest legacy will not be his trophy case but what he gave to the game and to his competitors in his journey as a professional.

 

 

 

While Haas hasn't amassed an overwhelming number of wins, he has collected the wholesale admiration of his peers on the PGA and Champions Tour. He has received some of golf's most prestigious awards: The 2004 Payne Stewart Award for upholding the traditions of golf, the 2005 Jim Murray Award from the Golf Writers Association of America, and the 2006 Bob Jones Award, the USGA's highest honor for distinguished sportsmanship. Golf is, according to tradition, a gentleman's game and Haas has carried himself as one for many years.

 

Like other sports we love, golf is a game of statistics. We are obsessed with driving distance, GIR's, putting averages, and sand-saves. All of these stats make a difference in a player's results. Let's face it: if your putting average is 2.12, you aren't playing the PGA Tour, you're betting your buddies a beer you'll break 86 this Saturday.

 

 

 

jay_haas_smile.jpgWhile stats are important, Haas has done one thing well: scoring. One of his best years came when he turned 50. While splitting time between the PGA and Champions Tours Haas was 10th in scoring average at 70.05 in 23 events. He missed only three cuts on the PGA in 2004 and posted one T3 and two seconds on the Champions Tour.

 

 

 

Scoring involves taking what you have to the golf course and thats just what Haas has done. He admits his swing is less than textbook. "There weren't any video monitors back then to show just how far outside I was taking the club back," says Haas. "So I had no idea how different my swing was from other players. When I finally did see it years later, it was too late. I had grooved this swing, and there was no turning back."

 

 

 

Haas owes a few of his idiosyncrasies to Masters champ Uncle Goalby. Bob Goalby's miss was a hook so he encouraged Haas to adopt a weak grip. "Some people say I can blame my uncle for my unusual golf swing," says Haas. "But 'blame' is the wrong word. 'Thank' is more like it. He taught me a swing that has lasted 27 years and helped me win nine times on the PGA Tour." While I'm not modeling my own swing on Haas' (I'm busy building some idiosyncrasies of my own) I find Haas' swing easy to watch. It certainly has made Haas a pretty good living.

 

 

 

jay_haas_senior_pga.jpgCheck out Haas' playoff record: 4-0. He is 3-0 on the PGA Tour and 1-0 on the Champions Tour. His latest playoff victory came at the Senior PGA Championship in a three-hole playoff over Brad Bryant. "I guess I don't think too much of the past, about what I haven't done. But, yeah, it kind of hit me there. And it was on TV and I wanted to say, 'We did it, Jan,' and I couldn't get that out. Nothing would come out," said Haas following his first major victory.

 

 

 

"And I was getting ready to tear up, so it was a pretty emotional time for me."

 

 

 

"I tried my darnedest to win a major on the PGA Tour at the PGA, the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, whatever, but it didn't happen," said Haas. "But this is -- I won't even say it's the next best thing. This is just like one of them to me."

 

 

 

Haas' best round this year was a 65 in Round-3 of the Wachovia Championship. Haas finished the weekend tied for 22nd with a disappointing 76 but he proved that he's still playing great golf even well into his Champion's Tour tenure. While he hasn't collected a PGA Tour victory since the 1993 H.E.B. Texas Open he's won three in a row on the Champion's Tour. The last guy to win three in a row this year was Loren Roberts. Getting hot on the Champions Tour means something.

 

 

 

Among Haas' greatest honors were making the 2003 Presidents Cup team and three Ryder Cup teams. His last Ryder Cup appearance came in 2004 when he was one of Hal Sutton's two captain's picks.

 

 

 

Haas' son Bill is a rookie on the PGA Tour via a top-30 at Q-School and trying to extend the family tradition a little longer. Son Bill's distaste for the Nationwide Tour got some press last year and he didn't get any love from the Nationwide Tour for it. He narrowly missed a Nationwide exemption spot.

 

 

 

As much as we love the big names and give the so-called big-five our attention, guys like Jay Haas are what the PGA Tour should be about. Watching the Terrell Owens of this world strut around like a rooster surveying their pathetic territory, Haas is a refreshing and humble character. Haas exemplifies the heart of a true champion. Through hard work, determination, and use of his available skills he has succeeded in golf and in life.

 

 

 

Photo Credits: © The Sports Frog, © SI.com.

 

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