Bill Haas still has the Mickey Mouse trophy he earned playing with his father, Jay, years ago when his dad was competing in the PGA Tour event at Walt Disney World.
They played together on a nine-hole par-3 course with artificial greens adjacent to the Magnolia course at the resort.
“I think they gave out like seven places,” Bill said, recalling what the Haases think was their first official father-son event.
Haas’ other son, Jay Jr., also played the same father-son so dad hit two balls on every hole.
It’s no Mickey Mouse event this week when Bill and Jay Haas tee it up together in the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. Between them, they have played 1,239 PGA Tour events – many when both were in the field – but this is the first time they will have been teammates.
Bill did play for his dad when Jay was the U.S. team captain in the 2015 Presidents Cup, securing the clinching point in the final match, but this will be the first time they’ve been a two-man team on the tour.
If you’re wondering, Jay is 68 years old and hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since the 2010 Players Championship. Bill will turn 40 next month and has spent the past few years chasing the form that made him FedEx Cup champion in 2011.
Together, they will try to make magic or, at the very least, a few more memories.
“The last few years I haven’t been able to ask a player. I’ve needed to be asked because of my status. This year I felt I could ask anybody so why not ask my dad,” Bill said.
“I just figured it would be good for him to watch me play and for us to have a good time.”
Bill didn’t have to ask twice.
“My first thought was I would love nothing better. Then I got thinking I don’t want him to waste a week playing with me,” Jay said.
“I told him if Louis Oosthuizen comes up and asks him, say, OK, I’m in. He said, no, I’ll just tell him we’ll do it next year.
“Hopefully I don’t embarrass myself.”
“I’d have to play (almost) 30 more years just to be where he is. That’s mind-blowing to me, just to physically be able to compete week in and week out, to do well enough to win and keep your tour card. It impresses me more and more, just knowing what that took.” – Bill Haas
For years, Jay has watched the December father-son event played in Florida and imagined playing it with Bill. That hasn’t happened and even at home in Greenville, South Carolina, they rarely play as a team because they are generally the two best players in their group so they get separated.
Not this week.
“I’m telling all the young guys out here they’re going to have an extra set of tees for me, about 80 yards in front,” Jay said.
“It shows how good he’s been for so long and he’s still competitive,” Bill said. “I talk about how I feel I’ve been out here for a while. It’s my 17th season. He started when he was 21, he’s 68.
“I’d have to play (almost) 30 more years just to be where he is. That’s mind-blowing to me, just to physically be able to compete week in and week out, to do well enough to win and keep your tour card. It impresses me more and more, just knowing what that took.
“I feel lucky to have him on my team.”
This could have been Jay’s 800th PGA Tour start but he found out recently that he’s at 798, not 799. He originally got credit for playing in the first Presidents Cup but the rules changed, costing Haas an official start. He’s not sure why five of his 10 starts in the Open Championship count toward his total and the other five don’t.
Still, only Mark Brooks with 803 starts has teed it up in more PGA Tour events.
Jay spent last week shadowing Bill as he played the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links, the spot where Jay met his wife, Jan, more than 40 years ago. He’s stayed current enough with the PGA Tour to know what he’s getting into at the Zurich Classic against many players who are less than half his age.
The first challenge for the Haas duo is picking their walk-up music, a feature of the team event.
“I wonder if anyone has chosen Frank Sinatra yet. That’s my vintage,” Jay said.
For Bill, having his father alongside in the heat of competition is a bonus. If something changes from the practice tee to the golf course, they can talk about it on the spot.
There is the old adage in team golf that neither player apologizes if they make a mistake that puts the other in a bad spot. The same goes for father and son, who aren’t going to New Orleans just for the food (Jay doesn’t like the famous grilled oysters anyway).
“Ask any person and they think they can win any week. Go down the line and ask guys their expectations and they think they can play great,” Jay said. “He’s at a disadvantage because I’m dead weight but you never know. Maybe I get a hot putter and hit a few hybrids on the greens.”
Individually, they have their moments. Collectively, they will do their best.
“We’re trying as hard as we can on every shot,” Bill said. “When you’re a good player and you’re trying and you execute, it doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are. If we both play well, we could do well. That’s what you have to believe or why would you tee it up?”
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