Jay Haas insists there is no secret formula for his longevity. No special diets, organic smoothies, exclusive workout routines or anti-aging pills that allow his 68-year-old body to perform at the highest level of senior golf.
Just staying in shape with proper stretching, walking every week and God-given talent.
At an age when many competitive golfers seek greener pastures, Haas is about to make his 17th U.S. Senior Open start at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course. And when he begins play on Thursday at 1:54 p.m. EDT with Woody Austin and 2015 champion Jeff Maggert, Haas will be looking to continue his remarkable consecutive-cut streak that began with his first start in 2004 at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis when he tied for third.
This will also be his 50th USGA championship, dating to 1969 when he lost in the Round of 64 of the U.S. Junior Amateur. His USGA portfolio includes 27 U.S. Opens and four U.S. Amateurs. This week, he’s the second oldest in the field behind Oregon amateur Pat O’Donnell, who is also 68.
“I just enjoy competition,” said Haas, who never uses a cart when he competes in PGA Tour Champions events. “I love to pit myself against the best players on the best courses. That’s what keeps me going. When the bell rings and the adrenaline starts flowing, then I don’t hurt as much. [It’s] when I stop playing it feels like someone ran over me.
“I definitely need to buy stock in Tylenol or Advil.”
Aside from the usual aches and pains, Haas feels fit and ready for the challenge of another USGA setup. He comes into this week fresh off shooting his age three weeks ago at the Principal Charity Classic, where he finished T-12. He nearly pulled it off again two weeks ago, carding a 69 in between a pair of 73s at the American Family Insurance Championship.
In April, Haas turned back the clock by joining forces with son Bill to become the oldest player to make a cut in a PGA Tour event, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the circuit’s only sanctioned team competition. Jay’s 4-foot par putt on the 36th hole enabled him to surpass Sam Snead, who was 67 when he played the weekend in the 1979 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic. Team Haas finished tied for 36th.
The two have competed alongside each other several times in their careers, including a pair of U.S. Opens in 2003 (Olympia Fields) and 2004 (Shinnecock Hills). On the latter occasion, both made the cut and the elder Haas tied for ninth, one of his five top-10s in the championship that also included low-amateur honors in 1974 and ’75.
“We had never played [in a PGA Tour event] as partners,” said Jay. “We’d played in father-son junior tournaments at home. But this was serious. I was just trying not to embarrass myself. I played well the first day. I was a good contributor to the team and ran on Bill’s coattails the rest of the way. It was an amazing thrill to make the putt on the last hole [on Friday]. There were more nerves than I want to deal with.”
While Haas never won a major during his nearly 30 years on the PGA Tour, he did produce nine PGA Tour victories and appeared in three Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups. In his first U.S. Open as a professional in 1977 at Southern Hills Country Club, he tied for fifth. It was the first of 16 top-10 major finishes.
Major-championship venues have always suited Haas, who doesn’t consider himself a birdie machine. He’s always put a premium on hitting fairways and greens, a style that often pays dividends on USGA setups.
“You need to play this course from the fairway,” said Haas after finishing his U.S. Senior Open prep Wednesday morning with nine holes on Saucon Valley’s back nine. “This morning, I probably drove it in the rough four or five times. That’s not good. It’s long enough where I am not going to be able to reach the greens from the rough on most holes. I will need to drive it well.”
Like any golfer who is approaching 70, Haas has lost a little distance, but not at such a drastic rate that it affects his chances to compete. Mishits might not travel as far as they once did, but he hasn’t reached a point where U.S. Senior Open layouts overwhelm him.
When that day arrives, Haas will stop playing. Ceremonial golf is not an option.
With 11 grandchildren, there are plenty of things to keep him occupied. His brother, Jerry, still coaches at Wake Forest, and his oldest son, Jay Jr., is an instructor at a family-owned range in Greenville, S.C., Haas Family Golf. And Bill is still grinding on the PGA Tour.
Golf is definitely in his family’s DNA. His late uncle, Bob Goalby, won the 1968 Masters, and his brother-in-law, Dillard Pruitt, played on the PGA Tour for eight years, notching one victory, before becoming a Tour Rules official.
Jay (1975), Jerry (1985) and Bill Haas (2003) all represented the USA in the Walker Cup.
Jay Haas’ ride in professional golf certainly has been fruitful. In addition to his PGA Tour wins, he owns 18 senior titles, including three majors.
“People ask me ‘How many more of these do you want to play?’” said Jay. “I say I’ll know. I don’t want to play great and shoot 78. If that’s the best I can do, then I needed to leave six months ago.
“I think I will wake up one day and say, that’s enough. I’m not going to this anymore.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.