Haas, like golf, is a four-letter word. And in Jay Haas' case the words are interchangeable.
In many ways, Haas is golf's forever man, a player of true grit and high character who has performed on the PGA TOUR with uncommon consistency over the course of his 30-year career. Delve deeper into Haas' story and you'll discover golf extends throughout the Haas family, proving golf is indeed a game for a lifetime.
Haas, 52, got his start in the game at the age of five when his uncle, 1968 Masters champion Bob Goalby, cut down a club for him. He won his first trophy at the National Pee Wee Championship at age seven. What's more, Haas, an NCAA individual champion in 1975 and a nine-time winner on the PGA TOUR, is still finishing first, having won four tournaments on the Champions Tour in 2007.
Jay's brother Jerry, who also gave the PGA TOUR a try, is the golf coach at Wake Forest University. His second son, Bill, was an All-American at Wake Forest and a member of the 2003 U.S. Walker Cup squad, just like his father was in 1975. Bill is currently competing on the PGA TOUR. First-born son Jay Jr. plays the mini-tours and brother-in-law Dillard Pruitt played on the PGA TOUR and now is a TOUR Rules official.
It is difficult not to notice the honorable way Haas conducted himself throughout his rewarding career. Members of PGA TOUR's voting panel did, as Haas was selected as the recipient of the 2004 Payne Stewart Award, given annually since 2000 following Stewart's tragic death in an airplane mishap in October of 1999.
"Jay is one of the most respected players on the PGA TOUR and has served as a role model, not only to golf fans, but to his peers,'' PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said in presenting the award in October of 2004. "He has always been able to find the right balance between his family and career, something that Payne also embodied. This has been a rewarding year for Jay, for he has not only excelled on the golf course, but has been able to share his son Bill's pursuit of playing on the PGA TOUR."
Haas followed in a line of golf's legends -- Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus (2000), Ben Crenshaw (2001), Nick Price (2002) and Tom Watson (2003) -- as a Stewart award winner, a fact that blew away the always-humble Haas.
"It was such a big honor for me,'' conceded Haas, who has failed to finish within the top-125 money winners just once in his career and reinvented himself as of late to become a consistent force on a weekly basis. "To be recognized within that group of players, the names that are on that trophy, is something I'll never forget.
"When the Commissioner called to tell me I was chosen, I got chills. There are so many guys who are worthy of this and who have done way more than I have, gentlemen, sportsmen and everything, so to be chosen is really something.''
Although Haas has gone over a dozen years without winning on the PGA TOUR, his trophy case is hardly suffering. In April of 2004, The Golf Writers Association of America honored him with the Jim Murray Award for his cooperation with the media. The latest honor for Haas is the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor by the United States Golf Association that recognizes distinguished sportsmanship. It's no coincidence Haas received the award in February of 2005. All of the previous Stewart award winners also received the Jones award from the USGA.
What's more, Haas played well enough to have his best earning seasons in 2003 and 2004. He was a captain's pick for the '03 Presidents Cup and '04 Ryder Cup, making him the oldest player in Ryder Cup history.
In 2005, Haas earned Rookie of the Year honors after joining the Champions Tour and winning both the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn and the AT&T Championship. The years 2006 and 2007 were even better, as Haas has won eight events -- including his first career major at the 2006 Senior PGA Championship -- and is currently leading the Charles Schwab Cup point's race. He also set a record on the PGA TOUR in 2006, surpassing Tom Kite's all-time mark for career cuts when he made it to the weekend at the U.S. Open, giving him 591 career cuts.
Haas has been a longtime supporter of charities in the Greenville, S.C., area where he resides, raising more than $1 million over the years. After seeing family members battle the effects of diseases such as ALS and Cystic Fibrosis, Haas has enthusiastically supported the ALS Association and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in an effort to find a cure for these devastating diseases.
"I can give you many of examples of how many guys have come up to me and told me how much -- I never mention this to him -- how much they respect my dad as a peer and a guy they worked against,'' Bill Haas said in a Golf Digest interview in 2004. "That meant a lot, how much people said they respected him over the years and how much they looked up to him.''