Thu, May 08, 2003 - Page 20 News List

History against Bill Haas' attempts to emulate his father

AP , CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Bill Haas followed his father into the locker room at Quail Hollow Club and sat down for breakfast, a routine he knows well from a dozen or so trips on the PGA Tour.

But Tuesday morning was different.

The kid isn't at the Wachovia Championship to watch. He's here to play.

Haas not only has a locker next to his father, Jay, but a tee time this morning against a field that includes Masters champion Mike Weir and Davis Love III.

The younger Haas also has plenty of game.

"There are a lot of `can't-miss' kids that do miss," said Curtis Strange, whose friendship with the father dates to their college titles at Wake Forest university in 1975-76. "But from what I know of Bill, he can't miss. He's full of potential. He has a natural swing and he seems to want it."

The 20-year-old Haas was an All-American at Wake Forest last year as a sophomore and the medalist at the US Amateur, where he lost 1-up in the semifinals to eventual champion Ricky Barnes.

The Wachovia Championship is his second PGA Tour event. He played in the Greater Greensboro Classic last year and missed the cut by one shot. He wants to play in the Walker Cup this summer, graduate next year and then turn pro.

Where that leads is anyone's guess, although Haas doesn't have history on his side.

Not many sons of successful golfers make it to the big leagues.

Even fewer of them win.

Al and Brent Geiberger. Julius and Guy Boros. Joe and Joe Jr. Kirkwood.

The best father-son combination ever? Young Tom Morris won the first of four consecutive British Opens the year after Old Tom Morris won his fourth Open.

That was 135 years ago.

The Haas family outing at Quail Hollow comes one week after Jack Nicklaus played in a Nationwide Tour event with his four sons.

Only the 63-year-old father made the cut.

"I came here to play with them, and all of a sudden I'm the only one left," Nicklaus said. He wound up in a tie for 45th.

Three of the Nicklaus sons played as professionals. Only one of them -- Gary -- ever earned his PGA Tour card. He lost in a playoff to Phil Mickelson in the 2000 BellSouth Classic, but all that did was buy him an extra year on tour.

You could call Nicklaus the most disappointing sire since Sec-retariat, only it's not that simple.

Golf at the highest level is more about passion, hunger and technique, traits that are not easily inherited. Making it even more difficult for sons to follow their fathers is an exclusive PGA Tour roster, with about 200 players every year.

"The percentages are against you," Jay Haas said. "The odds of any player making it big is pretty slim, so two from the same family is rare."

Other theories abound.

Topping the list is pressure to live up to a father's reputation. No son had a bigger burden than Gary Nicklaus, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16 as the heir to the Golden Bear.

Some kids who spent their childhood hanging around the PGA Tour get tired of it. Others simply don't have the talent or the hunger.

"All kids of golfers are good athletes," said Strange, whose 21-year-old son Thomas occasionally qualifies for matches at North Carolina State. "Do you inherit the same drive to play well? Do you inherit a perfect golf swing? They might love the game, but they're not in love with the game. That's a huge difference."

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