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

Top 10 Moments In Principal Charity Classic History…No. 4: New name, popular winner

Three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin stood on the podium outside Principal’s campus and said thanks.

“On behalf of the Champions Tour, we thank each and every one of you for letting us come back into your home,” Irwin said.

Principal told the world at that August 7, 2006, news conference that it had agreed to replace Minneapolis-based Allianz Life Insurance of North America as title sponsor of the annual PGA TOUR Champions stop in Des Moines.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for the charity part of it,” former Principal chairman and CEO Barry Griswell said.

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of Principal’s title sponsorship of the Principal Charity Classic, an event will have generated nearly $10 million for charity by the time the 2016 tournament closes its books. Iowa children’s charities – and golf fans – have been the biggest benefactors.

They’ve had the chance to witness players like Jay Haas, who won the first of his three Principal Charity Classic titles in 2007. This was a one-sided affair. Haas was a wire-to-wire winner.

Haas rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a first-round 65. That last birdie was the eighth one on his first-round scorecard. The 65 was one shot better than Dave Eichelberger, who won the 1999 U.S. Senior Open across town at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

An adventure-filled second-round 67 gave Haas a three-shot lead over David Edwards. Haas made a double bogey on the par-4 8th hole, but responded with six birdies over the next seven holes.

Haas took the lead into the final round for the 22nd time in his PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions career. He had closed the deal in 10 of the previous 21 opportunities.

He made that 11 of 22 after his final-round 69 and a 54-hole total of 201, 12 under par. Haas led by as many as six shots during the final round. He bogeyed the final two holes, but still finished three shots in front of R.W. Eaks and Brad Bryant.

“I was glad we ran out of holes at the end,” Haas said.

Those final bogeys were only a tease.

“You can’t chase Jay down right now because he is probably the best senior player in the world and he isn’t going to make any mistakes,” Eaks said.

It was pretty clear that everyone else was playing for second at the fourth green. Haas couldn’t put any spin on his ball after driving it through the fairway and into the rough. His second shot to the two-tiered green ended up on the upper shelf. The pin, on the lower shelf, was 25 feet away.

Haas faced the almost impossible task of two-putting his way out of the predicament, which was magnified because Edwards had a 4-footer for birdie.

Haas barely touched his first putt, which picked up speed as it got closer to the cup.

“Hit the hole,” Haas said.

It did. In fact, his ball hit the back of the cup with authority, popped up in the air and fell in for an unlikely birdie.

“I was totally shocked,” Haas said. “I thought it was going too hard to go in. It hit pretty much dead center. That was the only way for it to go in.”

Griswell also felt like a winner after Principal’s first year as title sponsor.

“This week has been terrific,” he said. “I try to think what we could have done differently, and I can’t think of anything. Great weather. Great crowds. Great players. A course in great shape. This has been a great community event.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

Top 10 Moments In Principal Charity Classic History…No. 6: Easy as 1-2-3

Last chance? No, but in the neighborhood.

Jay Haas came to the Principal Charity Classic in 2012 knowing that the window of opportunity was starting to close on his PGA TOUR Champions career.

“My successes have been fewer as I’ve gotten older, but I still feel like I’m capable,” Haas said after a second-round 65 at Glen Oaks gave him a three-shot lead heading into the final round.

It would have been a four-shot lead had former Masters champion Larry Mize not holed a 5-iron from 177 yards for an eagle-2 on the 18th hole.

“I would have been tickled to death with a three, much less a two,” Mize said.

That shot turned out to be no factor in the final result, because Haas was more than capable. He shot a final-round 66 and collected his third Principal Charity Classic title after tying the tournament record of 16 under par established by Gil Morgan in 2006.

“The older I get, I realize this isn’t going to go on forever,” Haas said. “I realize the window of opportunity is closing quickly. I don’t know if I put more pressure on myself because of it. But victories are sweet, and this one tastes pretty good.”

This was the 16th of Haas’ 17 PGA TOUR Champions career victories.

Haas also set a Principal Charity Classic record with his five-shot margin of victory. That erased Nick Price, who won by four shots in 2010, from the record book.

Both Mize and Tom Lehman, who started the final round four shots back, made it easy for Haas to protect his lead during the final round. Mize parred his first seven holes of the final round. Lehman parred his first eight.

Mize provided the only hint of drama when he birdied three straight holes, starting at No 8, to close within two shots. But Haas birdied the 11th hole and coasted to victory.

Even a tournament-record 62 by Kirk Triplett didn’t rattle the eventual winner. Triplett had started the final round in an 11-way tie for 22nd, nine shots back of Haas. He did end up in a tie for second with Mize at 11 under.

“Every time I made a mistake, I came up with a par or a birdie,” Triplett said. “All of a sudden it felt like if I could get a couple more I’d shake those leaders up.”

Triplett’s Sunday heroics led to a $140,000 check, but didn’t make Haas blink.

Lehman shot 68 and tied with Fred Funk for fourth, six shots back.

“I didn’t put any pressure on (Haas) at all,” Lehman said. “It was very frustrating. But Jay played great. He would have been tough to beat.”

With victory pretty much a forgone conclusion, Haas put an exclamation point on his day with three straight birdies, starting at the par-3 14th hole where his tee shot landed a foot from the cup and he coaxed home a 12-foot birdie putt.

“Probably the best shot I’ve hit in weeks, months,” Lehman said.

When it was over, Haas signed his scorecard and collected his third Principal Charity Classic trophy.

“I probably played as well as I have in a long time,” Haas said. “It was a special round.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

Top 10 Moments In Principal Charity Classic History…No. 9, Double Dose of Haas

Jay Haas picked the perfect time to catch fire. It happened on the back nine at Glen Oaks Country Club, in the final round of the 2008 Principal Charity Classic.

“It seemed to happen so fast,” said Haas, who was chasing second-round leader Nick Price. “I didn’t have time to get conservative, because I was chasing.”

Haas shot a final-round 6-under-par 65, the lowest round of the tournament, to become the first and only player to successfully defend his Principal Charity Classic title. He also passed Bernhard Langer for the lead in the season money list and the Schwab Cup point standings.

Haas, collecting a winning check for $258,750, also won on back-to-back weeks. He came to town after winning the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., finishing a shot ahead of Langer.

“A month ago, I had a bunch of good finishes,” Haas said. “All of a sudden, I’ve had a great year.”

Haas finished the 54-hole championship at 10-under-par 203, one shot better than Andy Bean. Price, who had a three-putt bogey on the 18th green, was alone in third at 8 under par. He had started the final round at 6 under, one shot better than five players.

Haas and his fast finish started in unexpected fashion. His tee shot on the par-3 14th hole came to rest on the lower portion of the two-tiered green. The cup was on the upper tier, 48 feet away. He made the putt, which ignited his rally.

“That was the shot that got me over the hump, literally and figuratively,” Haas said.

He followed up that dramatic putt with birdies on the next two holes and posted a score that was unmatched.

Bean had a chance to catch him with a birdie at the par-4 18th, but he drove it in the right rough and ended up holing a downhill 27-footer for par.

“If there’s a good par, that was definitely it,” Bean said. “It was some consolation. But there’s a Jay Haas out there, and he played great.”

Price also had a chance to force a playoff with a closing birdie. But he left his uphill 26-footer four feet short.

“I’m standing there and I’m saying to myself, “I’ve got to give this a go,’ ” Price said. “And I leave it four feet short. I was so embarrassed. Everyone is waiting for you to make this putt and you leave it four feet short. I mean, it’s pitiful.”

Price then missed the four-footer for par, a stroke that cost him more than $27,000.

“I was so cross,” Price said. “Cross that I had left that first putt short. I mean, I was seething. It’s like bursting your bubble. After that, finishing second, third, 10th, it doesn’t matter. That sounds unprofessional, but that’s how I felt.”

The three-putt was Price’s only bogey in a final-round 69. Bean finished the tournament with 17 birdies over 54 holes, more than anyone else in the field. He was also the only player to shoot in the 60s all three rounds.

But Haas was just a little bit better, back-to-back better.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter