For 9-time PGA TOUR winner and 2015 President’s Cup Captain Jay Haas, golf is truly a family affair. And it’s not just that his sons, brother, uncle, and brother-in-law are all immersed in golf, it’s how the 63 year-old Belleville, IL native expresses what they and the greatest game ever played mean to him. I have always contented that golf fans should cheer for the story first and player second. And you’d be hard pressed to find a better story than Jay’s son, Bill, securing the winning President’s Cup point with Jay serving as Captain last October in South Korea.
That indelible moment left me pondering, “If there is a first family of golf, the Haas’s have to be at the top of the list.”
MGM was fortunate to sit down with the likeable and charismatic Haas at the American Family Championship Media Day this past June and asked him a wide range of questions regarding his 40 plus year TOUR career.
1)You can play only one course before passing – St. Andrews/Augusta National/Pebble Beach/or other and why?
This is an easy one, Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head. The others you mentioned are all in my top 5, but for me Harbour Town offers everything for everyone – a great golf course, a great venue, plus I met my wife there so I might be just a little biased!
2)Who would be in your dream foursome – past or present and why?
I would definitely keep it in the family. I have two boys, my uncle Bob Goalby who is 87 years old, my brother Jerry who is the coach at Wake Forest plus my brother-in-law Dillard Pruit who is a Rules Official. If I do the quick math we would have to extend to a fivesome. I can tell you one thing, no one would have to ever look for anyone’s ball as all of them would be down the middle!
3)If you could play one round with a golf professional, past or present, who would it be with and why?
That is an easy one – my son, Bill Haas.
4)If you could play one round with a professional athlete, past or present, who would it be with and why?
That’s a good question. I got the chance to play a few holes with Steph Curry last year and he was a real cool guy. I would like to play a full 18 with him someday.
5)What is your favorite Midwest golf destination and why?
I have to say Whistling Straits is pretty special on Wisconsin’s “Coast” plus I am hearing great things already about Sand Valley in north central Wisconsin. If it is the Bandon Dunes of the Midwest; golfers in this part of the nation are in for a real treat.
6)What is your best overall experience on the golf course and why?
Without a doubt last year’s President Cup in South Korea with my son Bill. Watching him have success that culminated with him being in the final group of the President’s Cup was amazing. That whole week was perfect for me and to watch him close it out was incredible.
7)What is the best shot you’ve ever hit and why?
I can usually remember the bad ones a lot easier (laughs). I hit a 3-wood on the green at Torrey Pines in 1978. Why I remember it so well it that it set up my first win. Thanks to that shot I eagled the last hole on Saturday, took a one shot lead and it propelled me to the victory. I hit it to 8 feet and it was the catalyst and the rest, they say, is history.
8)What is the best shot you saw someone else hit and why?
I was paired with Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village the year (1979) Watson shot 69 and no one else broke par. The wind chill was 18 degrees; it was a joke how cold and rainy it was. Jack drove it into a fairway bunker on No. 17 and the pin was tucked up in the front neck. When he hit the shot, it sounded like a gunshot went off thanks to a small film of water on the ball. He hit it to two feet and made the putt for birdie. After he hit that shot I turned to my caddy and said “I can’t feel my hands and even if I could I know I could never hit that shot.”
9)If you had to only play 18 holes with only one club which one would it be and why?
I would probably choose a 5 or 6-iron. Obviously you would sacrifice distance off the tee but you would be able to hit most other shots. If you got into a bunker with a 3-wood you’d never have a chance plus you could putt with a 5 or 6-iron.
10)What is the best golf tip you’ve ever received and by whom?
I talk about this all the time to anyone that will listen. My uncle Bob Goalby won the Masters in 1968 and he always preached when you finish, turn your belt buckle to the target and finish on your right toe. That worked for me for the first four or five years I played as a kid. It’s a great tip for any beginning golfer on what the proper finish should look and feel like. Playing golf is like learning a new dance, you have to get all the steps down.
11)What is the best golf book you’ve ever read and why?
My favorite book is Men in Green by Michael Bamburger. It’s a very cool book that talks about living legends and secret legends. I don’t want to give anything else away, but every golf fan should definitely read it.
12)What gets you the most upset on the course other than your own poor play?
My displeasure is all self-inflicted; once you’ve hit a shot that’s better than you normally do you wonder why don’t I do that all the time. As a professional you can hit a lot in a row pretty well, so it’s even worse for us when we don’t execute. I used to be bothered by who I was playing with and the weather but no more. And for me mental mistakes are even worse because those should never happen.
13)What is your favorite way to deal with a rain delay during a tournament?
Peter Jacobsen tells great stories and some of the best times on TOUR are during rain delays. I can’t pinpoint any one story off the top of my head, but there are ton of great guys that are wonderful storytellers.
14)What is the one reason everyone should try and play golf at least once in their life?
It’s a game of a lifetime. The lure of hitting a good shot is powerful plus a light comes on when you realize it’s just you against the ball. Somebody once categorized it as the biggest mismatch ever. You’ve got this little ball against this big, long club and you take this giant swing and the ball goes 10 feet. Then the next shot you hit 270 yards and say wow, that was cool. Just the challenge is amazing – plus the fact your kids, grandkids, the whole family can play together – now that’s the real treasure at the end of the rainbow.
I will also say that golf is one of the few sports where amateurs can do just as well as professionals. Eighteen handicaps make 30 foot putts all the time and often times pros miss them. I couldn’t dunk or make a 3-point shot, or throw a football 50 yards – so again it’s a game for a lifetime.
15)And finally, how important is it that all levels of TOUR GOLF give back to kids?
I grew up near St. Louis, Missouri in Belleville, IL. We had a great junior golf program that gave me the opportunity to play somewhere and opportunity is what young people are looking for to improve and advance. Kids need trophies to play for. Playing golf as a child grew me as a player and a person!