Jay Haas on Arnie, the Ryder Cup, winning at 62
CARY — Jay Haas rolled his golf cart up behind the clubhouse Saturday at Prestonwood Country Club, whipped out his phone and soon was texting.
Haas, who’s competing in the SAS Championship, may still be getting congratulatory texts. A week ago, he won the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach, Calif., earning his 18th career victory on the PGA Tour Champions.
Haas likes to say that the golf ball doesn’t know how old you are. But Haas knows. So do his peers on the tour. He’s 62, and he became the second-oldest player to win a Champions tour tournament.
Haas’ birdie on the first hole of a playoff beat Bart Bryant, giving him his his first win since 2014. He also did it with his wife, Jan, as his caddie, making the unexpected victory even sweeter.
Asked Saturday if Jan got the standard caddie’s cut of the $270,000 payout, Haas smiled and said, “I get a little bit and then she gets the rest.”
It has been quite the year for Haas, who once helped Wake Forest win back-to-back national championships before a long career on the PGA Tour.
Last October, Haas was the captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team that edged the International team 15 1/2 to 14 1/2 points in Incheon, South Korea. One of his sons, Bill Haas, had the deciding point, father and son exchanging emotional hugs at the end.
Nine members of that U.S. team went on to end the U.S.’s Ryder Cup frustration two weeks ago, topping the Europeans 17-11 at Hazeltine. While the Presidents Cup isn’t the Ryder Cup in terms of pressure of prestige, winning is winning and the U.S. players came away from the matches in South Korea with good vibes.
“I think that was important for them, because they had been on a couple of losing teams, Ryder Cup wise,” Haas said. “But certainly winning helps and knowing they can do it down the stretch. That narrow victory was a little too close, but a few guys on that team tasted that victory and know the difference between winning and losing. They got the job done, certainly.”
The Toshiba Classic was a little too close for Haas, too. After opening 64-63, he had a five-shot lead entering the final round. He shot 70 on Sunday, and had Bryant not bogeyed the 18th hole, Haas would have finished second.
But the birdie on the playoff hole got it done. Only Mike Fetchick, who was 63 when he won the Hilton Head Seniors Invitational in 1985, was older than Haas, and that was in a different era for the senior tour.
Haas’ victory came a few days after he attended the memorial service for Arnold Palmer in Latrobe, Pa. Palmer, who died Sept. 25 at 87, was a fellow Demon Deacon and an inspiration to many.
“Hopefully he’s smiling,” Haas said after the victory.
Haas last win came in the 2014 Greater Hickory Kia Classic at Rock Barn, and he said 2015 was not a good year for him on the tour.
“I’ve been playing better lately and you never know when your last victory is going to be,” Haas said. “To do it still, at 62, was very special.”
Scott Hoch, who played with Haas at Wake Forest, then on the PGA Tour and Champions tour, called the victory impressive.
“Even more impressive is he won with Jan on the bag,” Hoch said. “That should be a great lasting memory. Sure, he won. That could be his last win, so that’s always special. But to do it with your wife on the bag, I’m not sure you can beat that.”
That said, Hoch quickly noted Bill Haas won the 2011 FedEx Cup and also had the winning point in the Presidents Cup.
“Those are some special family-oriented accomplishments,” Hoch said. “Hey, he’s a great guy, he’s a really good player and my hat’s off to him.”
Haas had a 2-under 70 Saturday and at even par is 10 shots behind the leader, Bernhard Langer. This won’t be his Sunday.
But no worries. He’s 62. He’s a winner again. The golf ball still doesn’t know how old he is.