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Friday, September 19, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 6/1/2013

A family tradition for Haas

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Bill Haas hits from the fairway on the ninth hole. He had a three-shot lead before storms stopped action in the second round. Bill Haas hits from the fairway on the ninth hole. He had a three-shot lead before storms stopped action in the second round.
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DUBLIN, Ohio — It was in the early 2000s and Bill Haas came to Muirfield Village to caddie for his father, Jay, in the Memorial Tournament.

Cap or visor, they asked him at the caddie check-in desk.

“I’m really not a hat wearer,” he said.

We’ll pay you $50 a day, they said.

“I said I’d take both,” Bill recalled, laughing. “I [hoped] I’d get $100 for the day for a hat and a visor. They didn’t go for that.”

Of course, this story is apocryphal. Bill was a collegiate player at Wake Forest at the time, and we wouldn’t want to suggest he did anything to jeopardize his amateur status.

You may have heard the other day that the NCAA ruled a golfer on the West Coast had to reimburse her school $20 for use of water while washing her car on campus. No, you don’t want to mess with that paragon of ethics and virtue, the NCAA.

Anyway, Jay Haas played in 29 straight Memorials. That’s 110 rounds and 7,911 total strokes. And zero victories. There are not many, if any, better players who came to Muirfield Village so many times, played so well, and never got to shake hands with host Jack Nicklaus walking off the 72nd hole on Sunday.

His son is poised to do just that at the midway point of the 2013 Memorial.

Bill Haas opened with rounds of 68 and 67, and his 9-under-par 135 total is three shots clear of the field, some of which did not complete 36 holes Friday thanks to two weather delays and, eventually, an overnight suspension in play.

Haas’ 67 came under gusty early day conditions, but nothing like what the second wave of players encountered during midafternoon play. Officials sounded the siren at 4:50 p.m. to clear the course with thunderstorms sporting 50-mph winds bearing down on the Columbus area.

Surprisingly, the golfers were back on the course by 6:10 p.m., enjoying mostly benign and softer conditions. Not surprisingly, they were back off it for good by 7:07 when more black clouds blew in, forcing 42 players back to the course at 7:30 a.m. today to complete the second round.

Haas caught one of those Friday morning gusts on the par-5 11th hole, hitting a big draw into a right-to-left wind. It flew like an out-of-control kite, and he was convinced it landed out of bounds, so he hit a provisional.

“We got up there and [the first ball] must have hit a tree,” he said. “It was fine, and I ended up making a birdie. That was probably a three-shot swing. I turned a 7 into a 4 real quick. I was very fortunate.”

Sometimes you’re lucky; sometimes you’re good.

Haas has never before been real good at Muirfield Village. His best finish in seven previous starts was a tie for 30th. Just making the cut as a rookie pro in 2005 was a big thrill.

“Mr. Nicklaus gave me a sponsor exemption when I first turned pro to play in this event,” Haas said. “It’s something I’ll never forget because this is one of the greatest fields in golf to play when you’re just out of college. It meant a lot to me.

“Even though I’ve never really had great success here personally I love coming back. I look forward to it every year.”

He loved coming this year if only to get some sleep.

William Harlan Haas, Jr., was born on May 13, a couple days after his daddy had missed a second cut in as many weeks at the Players Championship.

Like any new parent, Haas said, his life has changed along with his sleep patterns.

“It has been a couple of great nights” sleep-wise, he said, since arriving for Memorial week. “I think I’m just in a better frame of mind.”

Haas smiled when asked if maybe he’d be coming back here 17 or 18 years from now with William on the bag as his caddie.

“It’s hard to imagine,” he said. “Golf obviously runs in our family, and he’ll definitely be around it. I would love it one day to have him caddie.”

Who knows? Maybe William will someday be working for a former Memorial champion.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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