Love stories from the TOURFebruary 13, 2008
Lauren Deason, PGATOUR.com Editorial Coordinator
Editor's Note: PGATOUR.com asked several PGA TOUR stars and their wives to share how they met and their most romantic stories for Valentine's Day. Here's what they said:
Jay and Jan Haas:
Jay Haas was just a young golfer, a "no-name" if you will, when fate dealt him a nice hand in Hilton Head, S.C.
His future in-laws and wife were vacationing in Hilton Head the same week as the golf tournament, where young Jay had gotten a sponsor's exemption, and they decided to watch the event and make a few wagers on the outcome.
Wake Forest University, then his recent alma mater, used to play in the Furman Invitational. Unbeknownst to him, his future wife's father had lived near the course, gone to watch the tournament at Furman a few times and had remembered the young golfer Jay Haas.
"Jan (his wife) tells me that she asked her father, 'Who is a rookie, a no name?'," Jay said. "...He knew my name and saw my name in the pairings and said, 'This guy is a young guy coming up, why don't we go watch him?'"
The first day she and her dad went out to watch Haas. The same thing happened on the second day. Haas saw her but, at the time, didn't know his playing partners too well and wasn't sure if she was the girlfriend or wife of one of them.
"I noticed her in the gallery but I didn't really say anything to those guys for fear of putting my foot in my mouth," he said with a chuckle.
After making it to the weekend and getting a new pairing, he came to a conclusion: if she was out there on Saturday, she was definitely following him. Well, maybe not.
"I thought, well it's safe now. If this girl comes out and follows, then she's following me. Or my caddie. I told my caddie, 'it's either me or you and I'm assuming it's me,'" Jay recalled. "And there she was, out on the first hole and she followed most of the round."
Haas was focused on his game and couldn't find a way to talk to the pretty girl in the gallery, so he put a friend in the crowd to work. Haas told that friend to go up to her and tell her that the young golfer would love to meet her.
"After the round [my friend] said, 'She didn't really want to meet you, she just wanted to watch you play'," Jay remembered. But the friend found out where she was staying, so Haas gave her a call and -- in his words -- "begged her to go to dinner".
About eight of them grabbed a bite to eat and Haas learned that she was soon heading to Florida State University for school. Lo and behold, there was a PGA TOUR event in Tallahassee, Fla., just a few weeks later.
"I was going to play in Tallahassee for sure after that. We went out probably every night that week in Tallahassee and that was it. It was a done deal for me. That was in April and we were engaged in December."
That was in 1977. The couple were married in October of 1978 and, five kids and 30 years later, they are still going strong.
And Hilton Head is still their favorite TOUR stop.
Matt and Sybi Kuchar:
The golf and tennis teams at Georgia Tech hung out frequently, so golf star Matt and tennis standout Sybi became good friends in the late 1990s. But after college, the two buddies went their separate ways: she to San Francisco, he to a stint in a finance job before choosing a life traveling on the PGA TOUR.
They kept in touch, of course. Whenever he came to play Pebble Beach, Matt would phone Sybi and they'd catch up.
At the end of her third year in California, Sybi returned to Atlanta for their alma mater's Homecoming football game and met up with her old friends, including Matt.
"We had a great time together that weekend and then I flew back to San Francisco. I can't say that I knew that we were going to get married then, but I was reminded that there were really nice guys in the world," recalls Sybi.
She called her parents shortly thereafter and decided it was time to move back home to St. Simons Island, Ga. At the end of their cross-country trek, Sybi called a friend to wish him a happy birthday but instead it was Matt who answered the phone. The two fell deep into conversation and decided then that it was time to go on their first real date at the 2002 Shark Shootout in Naples, Fla.
By May of the following year, Matt and Sybi were smitten. On a romantic weekend getaway to the mountains of North Carolina, they returned home from a day of sightseeing and headed inside the dark house.
"Candles and rose petals were all over the ground. They formed a trail all over the house, where every few feet there were candles and pictures of Matt and I from babies up to recent pictures of us together," Sybi said. "At the end of the trail was a huge bouquet of flowers and a blown up picture of us standing in front of an old church in Maui.
"The picture had been made into a light box and you could actually open the door of the church. Behind the door was a ring, lit by the back lights. It was really special."
Matt whisked her away to dinner, where he'd asked the whole family to join them to celebrate.
Lest you think that was the only romantic act up Matt's sleeve, here's another reason why Sybi says she's so lucky. On their second wedding anniversary, he was picking her up from the airport after she flew in for a tournament. As she recalls, a ton of PGA TOUR players were on her same flight.
Sybi got caught up on the plane and took her time making her way to baggage claim. Little did she know that Matt, the 2002 Honda Classic champion, had been waiting at the bottom of the escalator holding balloons, flowers and an enormous sign that read "I love you. Happy Anniversary."
"It was so sweet! But I know that all of his buddies that came down first gave him a little trouble," Sybi said.
But that wasn't the best anniversary the two have shared. Last year, on their fourth anniversary, the couple welcomed their first son Cameron.
Bruce and Rose Lietzke
Tiger Woods isn't the first player to meet his future wife while she was a nanny for a PGA TOUR player.
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Jerry and Soozi Pate had just had their first child, Jennifer, and brought Soozi's sister Rose along to the Hawaiian Open to babysit. They let Rose have some free time to hang out on the beautiful island, so she headed over to the golf course and began watching Bruce Lietzke's group.
"She went home and asked them, 'Who is this Bruce Lietzke guy?' We had a date that night in 1979," Bruce said.
Bruce and Rose got married in 1981 and had two children. Bruce tailored his schedule so he was rarely gone from home for more than two or three weeks in a row. It was important to him to be there to watch his kids grow up and spend time with his wife.
"I'm a real happy guy. I've been married one time and have got a couple of kids I'm real proud of," said the 13-time PGA TOUR winner. "The TOUR has done a lot of good things for me and [meeting my wife] is one of them."
The two Nelson sisters, Rose and Soozi, are still happily married to their PGA TOUR husbands. In a funny twist of fate, at last week's Allianz Championship, Pate and Lietzke were paired together in the final group on Sunday.
Jerry and Soozi Pate:
Now here's the story of the other Nelson sister.
Soozi was Miss Pensacola Beach, a beauty queen who caught the eye of a handsome young golfer. At an afternoon pool party in the summer of 1973, Jerry Pate saw her and was quickly smitten.
"I saw her across the room and saw how pretty she was," Pate said. "The more I got to know her as I started dating her, I saw she also had really a great heart. I could tell she was the woman for me.
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Their first date took place in the backyard of his parent's house in Pensacola, Fla., where the couple still lives today. Pate, three of his guy friends and four girls (including Soozi) went waterskiing in the bayou behind the house.
"We just saw a picture of it the other day. We all loaded up in the little bayou behind my house where we still live today. It was an afternoon ski party, so I didn't meet her at night and our first date wasn't at night," Pate noted.
Three children, one grandchild, eight PGA TOUR wins and 30 years later, Jerry is still gushing about his wife.
"She has a terrific heart and is very kind and giving to everyone she comes in contact with. When I met her, I thought this has got to be the right one for me. Obviously she has been because she's put up with my antics for 32 years."
Justin and Amanda Leonard:
Amanda Leonard was driving around Dallas in early 2000, hunting for a place to buy a house. As she turned down Holland Avenue, she saw a "For Sale" sign and a strong feeling overwhelmed every part of her: this was where she was meant to live.
"I just didn't know why or God's purpose [at the time]," she now recalls.
But she settled into a town home where, unbeknownst to her, a British Open champion and PLAYERS winner lived just two doors down. They met once in the hallway one night, in passing as she was coming home from dinner and he was heading out with friends.
Then, a month later, they had a second chance meeting in the parking garage. Justin, then a four-time PGA TOUR winner but always a Southern gentleman, helped her carry in a load of plants. But he still didn't ask her out.
Another month passed before they ran into each other again. This time, Justin didn't let the chance to take her out slip away. They went on their first date in April, fell head over heels in love and were engaged in August of the following year.
The two share a love for running marathons, so it seems appropriate that Justin proposed on a romantic early morning hike in Telluride, Co.
The couple were married in Florida, near where Amanda grew up, and now have three small children.
"We just celebrated our six-year anniversary and are more in love now than when we got married," shares Amanda. "We enjoy traveling full time with Justin in the PGA TOUR."
Glen and Jennifer Day:
At the Arkansas Open in 1988, Glen Day didn't have any money for a golf cart. So the sweet girl in the pro shop, whose dad once played on the Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour, lent him one for free during the tournament week.
Next thing you know, he won the tournament. But Day, then a recent college graduate, quickly jetted off to the Asian Tour, where he soon won the Malaysian Open.
"Even though we were not (together) at the time, I cut out the article in Golf World and still have it in the frame from my college dorm. I knew I would see him again," recalls Jennifer.
The two began dating in 1989 -- their first outing was to see the movie "Days of Thunder" -- and were together for three and a half years before Glen popped the question. Only Jennifer didn't look quite like her usual self.
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"He had been in South America playing for a month and came to spend a few days with my family before Christmas. He was acting so weird I went to my room thinking 'what a jerk!' and put a Noxzema mask on my face," she said. Glen pulled out the ring and asked her to marry him at that moment.
Where were her parents at the time? Coincidentally, seeing the movie "Father of the Bride."
The couple is now proud parents of two girls and (gentleman, take note) he's still constantly doing sweet things for his bride of 15 years.
"Glen always does sweet things. He leaves cards and notes lying around when he is getting ready to leave or sends flowers - just because."