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(Excerpted and revised from Golf In The Upstate - Since 1895)

Jay HaasAuthor’s 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 team.

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 the "majors".

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 century.

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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