THE AMAZING JAY
(Excerpted and revised from Golf In The Upstate - Since 1895)
Note: Jay Haas, the 2004 recipient of the Payne Stewart Award given
to the golfer best demonstrating a passion for the game, good conduct
on and off the course and giving back to the community and who represented
his country in the Ryder Cup of 2004 at age 50, is truly an amazing
athlete. In the past two years Jay, at age 49 and 50, has played
at the top of his game and ranked in the top 15 on the PGA Tour.
Although in 2004 he qualified to join the seniors on The Champion’s
Tour, Haas has won over $1.7 million on the regular tour plus over
$700,000 in just three events on the senior tour. This is a chapter
on Jay taken from my book released in late 1999 which reviews his
career and family background.
An event took place on October 14, 1978 that would have a very pleasant
impact on the community of Greenville, South Carolina as well as
our golf history in the Upstate. On that day, Janice Pruitt of Greenville
County, daughter of George and Winona Pruitt and granddaughter of
J.P. Traynham, Sr. married a young man from St. Louis by the name
of Jay Dean Haas. Haas who was in his second year as a PGA touring
professional had met his bride to be while he was a participant
in The Heritage Golf Classic at Hilton Head Island and she, a spectator.
This nephew of former Masters champion, Bob Goalby, and the new
Mrs. Haas, brought together through marriage two prominent golfing
families. It was certainly a marriage made in heaven or, at least,
in golf heaven.
Jan had come to Hilton Head Island during her spring break from
Florida State University to vacation with her family. They had made
a tradition of gathering together during the week of the Heritage.
When the family discussed who they were going to choose in the family
pool, her father, George Pruitt, who had learned of Haas' ability
at Wake Forest, suggested that his daughter pick this young touring
pro. Jan followed her pick on the course the first day just to check
out who she had wagered on. Liking what she had seen, she was back
the next day, as well. Haas became aware of her presence during
the first two days of the tourney and he told his caddy that if
she came back the next day he was going to ask her out. She did,
he did. The rest is history. Haas has always felt he was extremely
lucky to have married into a golfing family. He had a great relationship
with her parents and they all seemed to understand the lifestyle
of a touring professional which made it easier for him.
Haas was introduced to golf by his Uncle Bob who taught him the
basic fundamentals. As a youngster he really took to the game and
was able to win one of his first trophies at something called the
National Pee Wee Championships played in Orlando. He was only seven
at the time. His game continued to develop as a junior golfer. Goalby
knew Wake Forest golf coach, Jesse Haddock and the caliber of golf
played at that ACC school. Goalby encouraged Haas to become a Demon
Deacon and Haddock offered a partial scholarship having never seen
him play. In his first week at Wake, he played in the US Amateur
at nearby Greensboro. Coach Haddock was in the gallery and chose
to follow his new recruit. Haas shot a 44 on the front and was thoroughly
embarrassed as he thought to himself, "Oh, no, I'm going to
lose my grant-in-aid before classes start." He was able to
gather himself and shot a 37 on the back nine. He followed that
with a 70 in the second round, making the cut, and feeling much
better about his game.
He flourished as a golfer for the talent rich Demon Deacons and
in 1975, as a member of the junior class, he captured the NCAA Championship
and was selected for the Fred Haskins Award as the nation's top
collegiate golfer. These accomplishments came exactly one year after
his good friend and teammate, Curtis Strange, had managed the identical
feats. This performance as an amateur led to his selection to the
'75 Walker Cup team.
Following in his uncle's footsteps, Haas turned professional following
"Q School" in late 1976. He played in just three events
before year's end. He entered 30 tournaments the following year
finishing in the Top 25 in five starts and pocketing just over $32,000.
From that point forward, Haas' career took off leading to a most
credible, consistent and successful 20+ years on Tour (and still
counting). Haas has nine career titles and official, career earnings
of about $7 million. His best years were in 1982 and 1995. In '82
he had ten, Top 10 finishes and captured two titles which allowed
him to qualify for the '83 US Ryder Cup team. In 1995 he finished
in the Top 10 in eleven events, banked over $822,000 and participated
for the second time as a member of the prestigious US Ryder Cup
Haas has qualified for 15 Masters finishing in the top five on three
occasions. His best finishes in 20 starts in the US Open were a
tie for fourth in 1995 followed by a tie for fifth in 1997. In the
PGA Championship, Haas has played in 19 tournaments with his best
being a tie for fifth in '82. For most of his career he has opted
not to cross that giant water hazard called the Atlantic for the
British Open. He has played there just eight times without a Top
10 finish. That adds up to 61 times he has qualified to play in
As a touring professional Jay Dean Haas has developed a reputation,
and rightly so, as a leader and one of the really nice guys on tour.
He is highly regarded by his peers and admired by the golfing public.
Although not recognized as one of the true greats of the game, his
very steady, competitive play over the years has quietly elevated
him into the top 25 leading money winners of all time. This places
him among the world's elite and ahead of many of the legends of
the game. Each time he tees it up watch for his name to move (or
sneak up) toward the top of the leader board by week's end.
In the late 1980's Haas was asked to become a director and advisor
to the developers of the Thornblade Country Club on the east side
in Greenville, South Carolina. When the new club opened its Tom
Fazio designed golf course in April, 1990 he assumed the position,
Director of Golf. One of his most prominent roles was to serve as
host to the Thornblade Classic, a one day pro-am inaugurated in
1991 featuring tour players . This event played each April at Thornblade
as a fund raiser for local charities has become one of the premier
outings of its type in the region. Because of Haas' popularity among
the touring pros he has been immensely successful in bringing most
of the top players on tour to Greenville as well as many of the
greats of years past. Golf fans have been treated to the likes of
Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Curtis
Strange, Brad Faxon, John Daly, Fuzzy Zoeller, Sam Snead and countless
others. Thanks to the donations of participating amateurs and ticket
sales well over a million dollars have been contributed to local
schools and charities in its seven year history.
The Haas family now live in a lovely home on the Thornblade Country
Club course. Jay and Jan are the proud parents of five children;
Jay, Jr., William Harlan, Winona Haley, Emily Frances and Georgia
Ann. Jay, Jr and William have shown promise as high school golfers
and in local and regional tournaments plus the girls are playing
as well. Jay and Jan have been very generous in their own right
as supporters of the arts and charities throughout the community.
They have most assuredly opened their hearts to the community, giving
something back, making an impact.
Although Jay Haas in not a native son of our area he has adopted
the Upstate as his home. This qualifies him to be considered as
the best golfer in our history to have called Greenville home. Perhaps
the best thing about Haas for the average golf fan is that he ain't
finished yet. Haas plans include continuing to compete on the PGA
Tour and then trying the senior circuit sometime early in the next
Note: Both sons Jay, Jr. and Bill had very successful college careers.
Bill was the 2004 national college player of the year at Wake Forest.
He has turned professional and has competed very well in his first
campaign on tour.
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