It’s been almost a decade ago now, but Jay Haas remembers with great clarity the 2005 Heritage at Hilton Head Island. Of course he does: It was the first time in his 30-year career that Haas got to play in his home-state PGA Tour tournament alongside his son, Bill. What father wouldn’t remember that?
For the record, the Greenville resident, who played in 30 Heritages, tied for 66th that week, while his 23-year-old offspring, a Tour rookie following an All-American career at Wake Forest, missed the cut (a year later, they reversed roles, Bill tying for 27th while Dad failed to play the weekend). But though they eventually played “10 or 15” times in the same PGA Tour events, Hilton Head was – and remains – different.
The Heritage has been personal for Haas’ family. Jay and his future wife, Jan, met there in 1976 when he was a young Tour player, she a casual fan.
“We always say we wish we’d taken a picture there or something then – but who knew we were going to get married?” the 60-year-old Champions Tour veteran said.
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“It’s amazing the history we have there as a family. I don’t recall how many times we went there later with the family for spring break. And, now, we were watching our son play there. That was a pretty emotional time for Jan and me.”
One other father-son experience potentially could have topped that for the Haases: if the two had played together at the Masters.
This week at Augusta National, 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler will welcome son Kevin, who won earlier this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, forming the first father-son tandem in tournament history. Jay Haas, a contemporary and friend of the elder Stadler, can speculate on what that will feel like; his final year playing Augusta was 2005, while Bill didn’t qualify there until 2010.
“I can’t imagine how much fun Craig and Kevin are going to have,” Haas said. “It’s kind of a dream come true for Craig. I haven’t picked his brain on that part of it yet, but I texted him after Kevin won, said ‘Augusta, here we come.’ ”
What could be better? How about two Masters champions in the same family.
“I’m sure that’s Craig’s next dream,” Haas said, “to have Kevin share a locker (in the Champions Locker Room) with him.”
Haas, who played in 22 Masters (and made the cut 19 times) between 1976 and 2005, grew up knowing a green jacket winner – his uncle Bob Goalby, the 1968 champion.
“That was my dream as a player, to get a locker next to Uncle Bob,” Haas said. “That can’t happen, but I hope Bill can” win a green jacket and share space with Goalby.
Jay Haas came close, tying for third at the 1995 Masters (three shots behind winner and friend Ben Crenshaw) and finishing fifth in 1985 and 1994. Haas got to spend practice rounds with his uncle during a decade (1976-86) when Goalby was playing.
Then, in 1985 there were three: Goalby, Jay and his brother, Jerry Haas (later Bill’s coach at Wake Forest).
“The three of us were on the cover of Golf World (magazine),” Jay said, under a headline reading “Family Affair.”
Although he and Bill never competed the same year at Augusta, that doesn’t mean the Masters was any less a “family affair” for the Haas clan. Each year he qualified, Jay and Jan would pack up their brood (eventually five children, including Bill, older brother Jay Jr. and three younger sisters) and rent a home in Augusta.
“It was important to me to have them all there, unlike most weeks (on the Tour) when I was by myself,” Haas said. “If it wasn’t spring break, they’d come down on weekends,” Jan sometimes shuttling between Greenville and Augusta if a daughter had an event (softball tournaments for Georgia, the youngest, for example).
Those memories still are vivid, too.
“One year, we were driving to the course on Thursday morning” for Haas’ first round of the tournament, “and Bill – he was maybe 12 or 13 – says from the back seat, ‘Dad, do I need my ticket today to get in?’ ” Jay said. “So we had to drive back to our rental house for it; fortunately, I’d left in plenty of time.” He laughed. “It was hard to get mad at him.”
In 2003, after not playing Augusta for two years, Jay Jr. was supposed to caddie for his dad. “But he got sick, so on Monday I said to Bill, ‘Well, can you caddie?’ He said yes, then looked at Jay (Jr.) and said, ‘Well, you’re not caddying the rest of the week.’ If he was going to go on Thursday, he was going to do it the whole time.”
Haas missed the cut, shooting 79-76. In 2004, “my next-to-last year (playing),” Jay Jr. got his turn on the bag, and Jay Sr. tied for 17th.
Nowadays, Jay Haas’ memorable moments are watching his son walk the lush Augusta National fairways – Bill has qualified each of the past five years – and the feelings, if anything, are stronger.
“Every time he’s been there, Jan and I go down. I’ve seen every round but one there,” Jay said.
Picking a highlight moment – so far – is difficult, he said.
“I know how hard it is to get there; to see him competing, watching him go down the first fairway …
“Maybe (his favorite moment) was his first day when I watched a practice round, and he’s with Ben Crenshaw, Kenny Perry and Bernhard Langer. I was in the grandstand thinking, ‘Dang, that’s my son there; it’s pretty cool that he’s playing with those guys I played so long with.’
“That was my first ‘ah-ha’ moment, I think.”
Whatever Bill’s Masters future, Jay has no regrets about his history there – not even the fact he never got to compete with his son.
“Short of us getting married and having kids younger, or (Bill) coming out on Tour a little sooner, it really wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “I never really thought, ‘Man, we could play together some day.’ I just hoped he’d make a career of it.”
Bill – who has won five times since 2010, including the 2011 Tour Championship – once came close to joining his dad at Augusta. In 2004, after finishing second in the NCAA Championship as an individual and winning the Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s top college player, Bill lost in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur. A win there and the younger Haas would’ve had his invitation to the Masters.
What might’ve been … but the Haases seem not to dwell on such things. While they plan to follow Bill all this week at Augusta, when the Tour moves on to Hilton Head, Jay and Jan will head to Atlanta, where he’ll play that week’s Champions Tour event.
“After watching him at Augusta … two weeks in a row, he’d probably go nuts with us around,” Jay Haas said, laughing. “It’s just Bill’s week there now.”
Likewise, the father has had his time at the Masters.
The son’s run, it seems, has only begun.