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Jay Haas and Bill Haas: Are They One of the Great Father-Son Duos in Golf?

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2015

Bill Haas receives trophy from former President Clinton.
Bill Haas receives trophy from former President Clinton.David Cannon/Getty Images

With Bill Haas' victory at last week's Humana Classic, it might be time to give Bill and his father, Jay Haas, their due as being one of the most remarkable winning families in the history of professional golf. They are just so low-key that people don't realize what they have accomplished.

Jay and Bill Haas have played their careers against bona fide legends ranging from Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino to Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman to Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson. And they've won, and they are still teeing it up trying to win every time they play.

While the Haas duo did not pull off the major double as Old Tom and Young Tom Morris or as Willie Park and Willie Park Jr., managed to do, they have surely become one of the most enduring and successful father-son combinations in the sport.

And in honesty, the field for the majors when the Morrises and Parks played were so small, you could write the names of all the contestants on the back of a small envelope. That's not so today.

Jay won his first tournament in 1978, two years after turning pro. It was the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational. He added eight additional titles on the PGA Tour, including the Bob Hope Classic, now the Humana Challenge, which his son Bill has now won twice. After turning 50, Jay notched 17 Champions Tour victories, including two Champions Tour majors.

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Bill turned pro in 2004, the year after his dad joined the Champions Tour. His first victory was the 2010 Bob Hope Classic. He now has six victories, including the 2015 Humana Classic. His most important win, financially, was the Tour Championship which put him over the top in points to win the $10 million FedEx Cup.

He still gets asked about the shot he hit out of the lake.

"That's what they equate me to, which is great," the younger Haas said. "It was probably my career moment, so far. I would have to do something pretty special; I would have to win a major to top that."  

However, until his first major comes along, he's happy to be known for hitting a shot out of the water to win $10 million.

Before last week's victory at the Humana Challenge, Bill was still searching for his game and had been nursing a sore wrist back to health, an injury that has troubled him since he fell down stairs at Hilton Head last spring. He found form, thanks to a practice round with dad Jay and longtime guru Billy Harmon. Harmon told him to have some patience and reminded him he hadn't hit a golf ball in two months.

"That sat with me a little bit," Bill admitted. 

Then, practicing and playing, both elder statesmen noticed that Bill's club face needed to "look at the ball a little longer." Bill explained that meant he was not squaring up his club.  

"I would fan it open, and I was just hitting some pretty awful shots," Bill explained. "That one tip, that Billy came up with, for the face to look at the ball a little longer, it's something my dad does in his swing, so I think I just took a little page out of his book, and certainly with Billy's eye to watch and see if I was doing it, was huge for me this week."

The younger Haas also asked Harmon to watch his swing during the final-round warm-up on Sunday to make sure the error wasn't creeping back into his swing.

"I wasn't sure I was doing it right," Bill said. "He said it looked good, so that was kind of what I went with."

Jay Haas at 2004 Bob Hope Classic
Jay Haas at 2004 Bob Hope ClassicAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Meanwhile, dad Jay was in Hawaii at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, most likely wishing he could be in La Quinta to watch Bill.   

Bill got a lead during the final round, but it was a narrow one, one stroke. And he nearly lost it on the 18th. As he played the final hole, five golfers one-stroke back warmed up on the range, hoping for a mistake from Bill that would give them a chance at a playoff.  

He tried to help them out.

Bill pushed his drive on the 18th onto the precarious edge of a far right, Bermudagrass-edged, fairway bunker. It wasn't quite, as Bob Rosburg used to say, in "He's got no shot!" territory, but it was going to be off balance. Luck would be involved in the outcome.

"I'm not good left‑handed at anything, so, and definitely not a golf swing," he said about his choices.  "Using the little toe of the club left‑handed, the water ( to the left of the 18th hole) was in play, out of bounds might have been in play, I just didn't feel comfortable doing that."

The thing was, he only had the one-shot lead, and even though it was a par-five, he was looking at squandering a birdie no matter what he did. He had to have par.

"I have done the thing before, backwards, where you do it one-handed and poke it down the fairway.  I almost did that," he admitted later. "My caddie, he kind of said, well, why don't you see if you can get in there and choke up and just poke it down the fairway. That was kind of what my decision was to do there at the end, was just somehow don't chunk this thing and move it 10 yards, just get it down the fairway."

So instead playing the 18th with a long and flamboyant drive, five-iron second shot and putt-for-eagle finish, he went with a mediocre drive, 8-iron poke-out, 8-iron to the green, two-putt par for the victory.

"That second shot became pretty key, because I could easily could have whiffed it, could have chunked it and moved it five yards and then I would lay up from there and then I needed to get up‑and‑down to win, " he said. "It felt like a train wreck all coming together there. Something bad was about to happen, but then the third shot, just a knock it on the green. I felt pretty comfortable over those last two putts."

Before this week, the last time Jay made a comment on his son's game was in the fall of 2014 when he was being introduced as Presidents Cup captain.

"It's been quite a thrill for me as a golfer—and certainly as a father—to watch Bill's progress and his successes," Jay said.

It was such a right thing to say that you'd think he was running for Congress.    

However, Jay Haas is not a braggart. He is so low-key that if he has his own web site, it's unfindable. He's typically shy, soft-spoken and stays out of the limelight, the better to be missed by large objects and bad headlines. For someone who has played professional golf for almost 40 years, he's led a remarkably quiet on-and-off-the-golf-course existence, and that's just the way he likes it.       

That doesn't mean he isn't passionately interested in Bill's career. According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Jay was so nervous about Bill's final round at the Humana Challenge that he hardly remembers his own play on Sunday.

So while the Haas family quietly goes on winning and top-tenning without fanfare, you can bet someone in the family recorded the final round of the Humana Challenge and that during a week in the not-too-distant future, Bill and Jay Haas will watch it together. It they are really excited at the conclusion, maybe they will low-five each other.

Father and Son Winning Combinations:

Tom Morris Sr.-Tom Morris Jr.

Willie Park-Willie Park Jr.

Joe Kirkwood Sr.-Joe Kirkwood Jr.

Jack Burke Sr.-Jack Burke Jr. 

Clayton Heafner-Vance Heafner

Julius Boros-Guy Boros

Al Geiberger-Brent Geiberger

Jay Haas-Bill Haas

Craig Stadler-Kevin Stadler

Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the PGA Tour, USGA, R&A or PGA of America.

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