Q&A with Jay Haas, three-time Principal Charity Classic champion.

Jay Haas has won 18 times on the PGA TOUR Champions. Three of those victories have come at the Principal Charity Classic. Now he’s back for a 12th consecutive season. His competitive trips to Iowa have covered 47 years.

RB: You were medalist in the 1971 Western Junior at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City. What do you remember about that event?

JH: I grew up in Southern Illinois (Belleville), so I drove up there. I remember a par-3 on the back nine, kind of a semi-island green (No. 13). When I came back years later to play in the Amana VIP, I felt like I was at home. I don’t even know what I shot (69-72). I won a couple of matches, then I lost. At that age, young players can’t believe they lose. I was one down going to the last hole, and had to hole a bunker shot to win. I didn’t. And I remember riding up that tram (to the 14th tee). I’d never done that before.

RB: Tom Purtzer finished second in the qualifying, and Craig Stadler and Fuzzy Zoeller were also in the field.

JH: The year I played? Seriously? I didn’t know any of those guys back then. Junior golf, and amateur golf, was much more regional then.

RB: Now you’re back in Iowa as your PGA TOUR Champions career winds down. How long do you plan to keep on playing?

JH: Somebody asked me that the other day (at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship). I was feeling good about things.  I had just shot 1 under (70). The next day I shot 3 over and missed the cut. I’ve had enough decent rounds this year to tease me enough to want to continue to do it.

RB: When do you think you’ll know when it’s time to say goodbye?

JH: I’ve always said that I don’t want to just be in a tournament to say I’m in a tournament playing on tour. Shooting 74, 75, 76, I don’t want a steady diet of that. I don’t love golf enough to do that.  I played a terrible tournament in Birmingham, Ala. (Regions Tradition).  I never play that course well. If somebody has said, ‘Sign here and you’re done,’ I probably would have signed. If I’m playing my best and shooting 74, 75, 76, and that’s the best I can do, I don’t want to do that.

But I was tied for the lead in Atlanta (Mitsubishi Electric Classic) with four holes to play. And I don’t think I was playing my best. If I play my best, I still think I can hang in there, and I love the competitive aspect of golf. I need the adrenaline rush now to do it. I can’t just go through the motions.

RB: But at some point, you’ll know.

JH: I’ll have a moment where I’ll just say, ‘That’s it. I’m done.’ I want to give myself to the end of this year to see how it shakes out.

RB: You won three times at Glen Oaks Country Club (host course of the Principal Charity Classic from ’01-’04 and ’06-’12), but Wakonda Club must feel familiar to you in some ways.

JH: The course I grew up on, St. Clair Country Club (in St. Louis), was designed by the same guy (William Langford) who designed this course. The terrain is hilly there. Not as hilly as this. But I had to learn to play uphill, downhill and sidehill lies, which I think is great.

RB: You won the NCAA title in 1975 (playing for Wake Forest).  We had a guy from West Des Moines (Broc Everett of Augusta State) win it last week.

JH: A lefty. I watched it. His first college tournament win ever. Very cool. My son, Jay Junior, went to Augusta State.

RB: Do you get a bounce in your step every time you return to play in the Principal Charity Classic?

JH: Yes, great memories here. I’ve got a fraternity brother (from Wake Forest) who lives here. Jimmy Jenkins. He’s a member at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. I always have dinner with he and his wife (Pamela).

RB: You need to win about $17,213 this week to reach a million in earnings at the Principal Charity Classic. 

JH: Hopefully I win more than that.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter