Reflections from near, far
After taking time to digest an emotional Presidents Cup, Jay Haas isn't sure what the future holds but would consider another captaincy
November 03, 2015
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
It had been a very, very long day.
More than 20 hours in the air -- and that doesn't count the layover in Chicago to drop one of their three daughters off at school. A mere 11 time zones crossed between Seoul and Greenville, South Carolina, to further upend the body clock.
As soon as Jay Haas and his wife Jan pulled into their driveway at 5:30 that Monday evening, though, it became apparent there would be no rest for the weary.
Not that they really wanted any. Not when their eight grandchildren were inside with assorted parents waiting to celebrate the American victory in The Presidents Cup the previous day.
Red, white and blue streamers hung from the branches of the trees in the front yard of the U.S. Captain's house, and the front door was draped in the same patriotic color scheme. Even the three pizzas in the kitchen had the letters U-S-A on them.
"When I was flying back, I was like, ‘How are we going to see all the grandkids?’ " Haas recalled. "So it was nice they all came to us. After about two minutes, they had forgotten about me and Jan and gone off to play.
“So that brought us back down to earth."
For a little while, anyway.
All the emotions of the previous week came flooding back at 9 o'clock that night when the Golf Channel repeated its broadcast of the decisive Singles competition -- the one where Haas' son Bill, one of his Captain's Picks, earned the deciding point in the 15.5-14.5 U.S. win.
"We ended up watching it until 3 a.m., and we could hardly go to sleep then," Haas said.
Not to worry – the rest of October was spent getting over the jet lag.
As Jay Haas watched the replay of his team’s win, he also saw his post-tournament interview with NBC’s Roger Maltbie on the 18th green. It was a rare display of emotion for the 61-year-old Haas, who was juggling the joy of seeing his team win with the joy of seeing his son come through in the clutch.
Instead of being kidded about shedding those tears, his friends empathized with him.
"Most people say that I was crying right there with you," Haas said. "I think any parent can relate.
"When you see your kids do something -- whether it be bringing home a good paper or seeing our daughters make a play at a softball game or watching our daughter dance -- it doesn't get much better than that."
Haas didn't plan to put his son out 12th and last in the Singles competition; he actually had him slotted anywhere from the fifth match on. But that's the way it played out, and the younger Haas drew the popular Korean, Sangmoon Bae, as his opponent.
The International Team was at its best on that Sunday, too, trying to win the biennial competition for just the second time since it began in 1994. Haas began thinking that his son might end up on the hot seat as the afternoon neared its conclusion.
"Like at 17, Bill had the opportunity to make a putt of about 25 feet," he recalled. "I thought if he makes it, it's all over."
But Bill didn't. So he took a tenuous 1-up lead to the 18th hole.
Jay Haas knows what it's like to have an international team competition come down to your match. At the 1995 Ryder Cup, playing in the 11th slot, he was 3 down to Philip Walton with three holes left. A 13-year-old Bill was in the gallery.
Haas holed a bunker shot at the 16th and birdied the 17th to head to the final hole trailing by one. Win and the Americans retained the Cup. Instead, he and Walton halved the hole with bogeys and the European celebration began.
Bill did what his father couldn't that Sunday, though.
"I just remember when he hit his second shot at 18," Haas said. "I was watching him hit it, and I was hearing the guys on the team say, 'Great shot from Bill.'
"To have his peers and all these great players say that for him was really special. The whole way it unfolded was more than I could imagine."
Jay Haas interview after winning The Presidents Cup
Aside from the final victory -- that of his son, as well as the team -- Haas' favorite moment of the week in Korea came on Thursday night when President George W. Bush spoke to the American team. He was headed to a dinner and the captain asked if he could steal him for a few minutes.
Those few minutes turned into more than a half-hour. The former Commander-in-Chief was completely relaxed, and likely wished he could dine with the team rather than attend the formal event already on his schedule.
"I know I for one, I will never forget his message," Haas said. "He was funny. He was serious. He was just great. He's such a regular guy. He is so normal, if there is such a thing.
"He talked about throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium after 9/11. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. It was such a great message. I couldn't have asked for more."
Since Haas has been back from Korea, the pro of nearly 40 years has been overwhelmed by the congratulatory phone calls and text messages from his peers. "It meant a lot that they were watching and living and dying with me," he said.
One of the most special missives came from Arnold Palmer, who started a proud tradition of golfers at Wake Forest, where Haas and his son went to college and his brother now coaches.
"He always sends a note when I win so it was nice to hear from him," Haas said.
His uncle Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters champion, weighed in, as did Haas' former Wake Forest teammate Curtis Strange, who was the 2002 Ryder Cup captain, and is a longtime family friend. Their perspectives were unique.
"Players know how hard it is to be in that position," Haas said. "They know they pressure you face in the final group. They know about success and failure, and I have been on the failure side of it. It's hard to hit good shots when you're in that position.
"And when Bill came through, it was amazing. I couldn't have scripted it like that."
A winning moment in more ways than one for father and son. pic.twitter.com/2IBitTIgFU— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 11, 2015
Haas gave himself a week to recover and reflect before heading to Newport Beach, California, to play in the Toshiba Classic. Despite finishing in a tie for 66th with a three-day total of 1 under, the 17-time Champions Tour winner just enjoyed getting back to competition.
"I don't think I want to put it behind me too much," he said. "But now I can concentrate more on my golf than The Presidents Cup."
So what does the future hold? Has Haas given any thought to being captain again, though?
After all, Fred Couples served three terms -- with Haas as his assistant each time -- while Jack Nicklaus was a four-time captain.
"Not really," Haas said. "I've seen it in print and I've said this before but I think the days of doing it two or three times are over. But I do think there should be some continuity and transition from being an assistant captain to being captain. It's important that guys see how things happen behind the scenes."
Haas is quick to point to players like Steve Stricker, one of his assistants in Korea, and Jim Furyk, who made this year's Presidents Cup team but was sidelined by injury, as potential Presidents Cup captains.
He thinks a veteran like Davis Love III, another of his assistants who is currently serving a second stint as Ryder Cup captain, would be a great candidate down the road, as well.
"I don't think that if you're captain of The Presidents Cup team, it should preclude you from being a Ryder Cup captain (and vice versa)," Haas said. "It's the same nucleus of players. Why wouldn't you want a captain who had seen them under pressure and knew how they responded?"
Haas, who jokes that he slept a lot better the three times he served as an assistant, isn't sure when a decision will be made. He said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem told him they'd talk in the coming months.
Many feel that Haas has the inside track should he want the post.
"If they ask me and no one else steps up, I probably would (serve as captain again)," he said. "It's a wonderful honor."
Regardless of the eventual decision, though, where does last month's Presidents Cup win rank among Haas' many accomplishments on the golf course? The memories are second to none, but the humble veteran doesn't want to take too much credit.
"I was more of a witness to it, rather than it being an accomplishment," he said. "It's all on the players. The players accomplished the victory. I am getting congratulations and that's nice. But they're the ones who did it."