The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

July 9, 2014

All in the family  

Haas brothers compete for Open title

EDMOND — When golfers tee off for the 35th U.S. Senior Open Championship golf tournament at the immaculate yet challenging Oak Tree National course, brothers Jay and Jerry Haas will be just the eighth set of brothers to compete in the U.S. Senior Open, the first since Bobby and Lanny Watkins in 2009.

Older brother Jay, 60, is familiar with Oak Tree having won the 2006 Senior PGA Championship and was also in the field for the 1988 PGA Championship. For little brother Jerry, 50, the golf coach at Wake Forest University, it will be his first time as a member of the Champions Tour.

After completing an early morning practice round, Jay offered his observations on the course today, compared to eight years ago for the Senior PGA that he won and a whopping 26 years ago for the 1988 PGA event.

“You know you are in Oklahoma when you feel the wind and the heat. Not too much has changed. This is, and has always been, a very difficult golf course. The wind can be a huge factor out here. Yesterday we had a little bit of an opposite breeze than what we are supposed to be during the tournament so lot of holes played a little bit differently.

“I think the rough this year is a little bit thicker, little bit more consistent than it was in ‘06 for the PGA six, seven weeks later in the year. The bermuda rough I think is a little bit up. But pretty much the same as I remembered. You’ve got to drive the ball really well here. The greens are very small, small targets to shoot to but the course is in magnificent condition.

“I don't think I’ve seen it any better. It’s supposed to be very hot. I don’t think the scores will be great. There will be some good scores during the week but overall what I remember was pretty much the same. It’s hard,” Jay said.

Jay’s spot in the tournament was pre-determined by his exemption status, as a result of 10 top-5 finishes and none worse than 12th in 12 starts on the Champions Tour this year.

For Jerry, he made it through the sectional qualifying round in Florence, S.C., where he shot a 68 to tie for medalist honors. Head coach at Wake Forest for 17 years, he says he plays competitive golf “sparingly.”

“I try to play in the North Carolina Open, the South Carolina Open and some of our sectional events. Now that I’m 50 I can play at the end of this month in the Senior Section Championship and if you play all right there, then it gets you to the Nationals, kind of like the National Club Pro.

“So, hopefully I’ll play all right. In the middle of November we have a tournament down in Port St. Lucie, and if I play okay there, I think the top 30 qualify for the Senior PGA next summer. So, I don’t play a lot. You think a golf coach gets to play every day but I really don’t. Kind of like a manager more than anything,” he said.

Jay says he may have found a little bit of the fountain of youth at age 60 in view of his successes the past year. The reason?

“It’s hard to say why but I’ve been driving the ball better. My irons have been good, short game has been pretty good. My putting has been good. I can’t put my finger on it other than just been one of those stretches where I’ve been very consistent. It’s been a lot of fun. I didn’t play great last year.

I felt like I was better than what I showed last year and I know that I’m getting older but I still feel like I can compete. I played with the guys out here all the time and I watch how they play and guys that are winning tournaments and I see how that’s done and I haven’t been able to do that yet but been very close and it’s been fun to have chances to win out here after so many years.

“But, you know, just try to keep putting one foot in front of the other and see what happens. I’m anxious to get started this week. Hopefully I’ll be in contention when it comes down to Sunday,” he added.

Did the brothers grow up playing together? Do they keep in touch now?

“Not as much then as now,” said Jay. “By the time Jerry was starting to play a good bit as a junior player, I was off to college or married, playing on the PGA Tour. There’s 10 years difference but, you know, over the years probably we haven’t averaged more than three, four times a year, really.

“We played yesterday and today. But we talk on the phone probably three, four times a week and always asking him about the team and things like that. We really don’t get an opportunity to play like we would want to, I think, but that’s just kind of the nature of life, I guess, getting in the way and living in different towns and things like that,” the elder Haas said.

“I stay pretty busy with my golf team at Wake Forest,” added Jerry. “We’re going to be pretty good the next four or five years. I’ve got some excellent players there now and we have six really good recruits coming in that will push them. Should be fun but it might cut into my time on the golf course,” he added.

“Playing in my first Senior Open has some significance,” Jerry said. “It was 30 years ago that Scott Verplank, Sam Randolph, Randy Sonja and I were in the semifinals of the U. S. Amateur Championship. Sam beat me and Scott beat Randy. We’re all here this week except Randy,” He said.

“He’s too old for his tournament,” interrupted Jay. “He was too old to be an amateur then.”

The brothers traded compliments in conclusion.

“I really watch Jay. He really drives the ball. I think he swings better now than ever. But we are two different people. What works for him doesn’t always work for me but he is a good example for anyone who wants to drive the ball correctly,” said Jerry.

“I was thrilled when I heard that Jerry had qualified. Shooting a 68 is significant. But mostly, he is an excellent role model for the kids on his team and everyone he plays with and against. Playing golf is just a bonus for him,” added Jay.

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