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Meet Golfer Jay Haas

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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South Carolina's Jay Haas
South Carolina's Jay Haas

South Carolina can lay claim to several dozen PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and mini-tour players these days, but when it comes to the "godfather" of S.C. professional golfers, there's only one name: Jay Haas.

The 57-year-old PGA and Champions Tour veteran was born in Missouri but has spent better than half his life in the Palmetto State, based at Greenville's Thornblade Club where he lives and where he has helped a number of aspiring pros, including his sons. Jay Jr. plays on the eGolf and Hooters Tours, while Bill is a two-time PGA Tour winner. Also family-wise, his brother-in-law, Dillard Pruitt, was a PGA Tour player and now is a Tour rules official, and Haas' uncle Bob Goalby won the 1968 Masters.

But there's more to Haas' impact than good genes. An All-American and NCAA player of the year at Wake Forest, he became an honorary South Carolinian the easy way: He married into one of the Upstate's preeminent golf families, meeting his future bride, Jan Pruitt, while playing in the 1977 Heritage.

As he tells the story, Jan's family was attending the tournament and decided to each pick a player to follow. Jan chose the young Haas, who spotted her in his gallery, afterward introduced himself and made a date. Three decades and five adult children later, they still call Greenville home.

Besides his solid PGA Tour career (nine wins) and a stellar Champions tenure (14 wins, including two Senior PGA titles, and two Charles Schwab Cup titles as the best senior player), Haas lends his name to the S.C. Golf Association's annual award to the state's best male junior player (this year, Leesville's Cody Proveaux, a Clemson commitment). And at this week's Nationwide Tour's BMW Charity Pro-Am - played at Thornblade, Spartanburg's Carolina Country Club and Hendersonville, N.C.'s Bright's Creek - Haas will partner with Jay Jr., the senior Haas' second appearance in the event.

Recognized as one of golf's "good guys," Haas' schedule keeps him traveling, but when he's home, he and Jan find plenty to occupy themselves. That's what "godfathers" do, after all.

Hometown: St. Louis; lives in Greenville.

Bio: Won the 1975 NCAA Championship while at Wake Forest. Played 29 years on the
PGA Tour, his last victory coming at the 1993 Texas Open. In 2003, won $2.5 million at age 50 for his best single season on the "junior" circuit. Since 2004, has earned more than $25 million on the Champions Tour.

Highlights: Played on three Ryder Cup teams in three different decades (1983, 1995, 2004). This fall, serves as assistant captain, his second such stint, under captain Fred Couples for the U.S. team at the 2011 Presidents Cup.

Where to play: "In Greenville, Verdae Greens does a great job. Thornblade had a wonderful re-do (renovation) last fall, and they have the BMW every year which is a cool feather in their cap. Chanticleer has been in various Top 100s in the past, one of the best in the state, and Green Valley near Travelers Rest, Furman (University Golf Course) went through a renovation four years ago. And The Cliffs courses: Glassy is the original, the Valley, Keowee Vineyards and Keowee Springs - if you're looking to play where you can sample a lot of courses, we have plenty of opportunities.

"I put Harbour Town (Golf Links) in my top five of all the courses I've played. It gets so much play in summer, but during the Heritage it's in immaculate shape, and there's not a bad hole on it. It's the shortest or second-shortest course on the Tour, but without question, tee-to-green, I can't think of a course much better anywhere.

"We have a place at Pawleys Island, and I like DeBordieu and The Reserve at Litchfield down there. And I really like True Blue, too. With those and the Upstate courses, the way the superintendents keep them up, if you have a steady diet of those, you have no complaints."

Where to eat: "For Jan and me, our favorite place in Greenville is Soby's on Main Street; the owner, Carl Sobocinski, was one of the first to bring good restaurants back downtown. Rick Irwin's is a great place, too. And we ate at Nantucket the other night. Up and down Main Street, there's an impressive selection now."

What to do for fun: "We bought the beach house three years ago in Prince George, which is below Pawleys, so when I'm not on a golf course, that's our getaway. Jan loves it; we can sit on the porch at the height of tourist season and see maybe 15 people go by on the beach during the day. We've got DeBordieu and the Reserve nearby for golf, and Bistro 217 is our favorite place to eat at the beach. When I'm not playing, I'm a beach guy."

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.