Haas meets media in preparation of home-state defense
Since winning the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Tree in Edmund, Okla., last May, Jay Haas says the thought of defending his title in his home state of South Carolina has "crossed my mind quite a bit."
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, everyone. I'm Julius Mason, senior director of communications and media relations for the PGA of America. I'd like to welcome you to the 68th PGA Championship Media Day. As we get settled, please enjoy this special video presentation on the history and tradition that is the Senior PGA Championship.
JULIUS MASON: That's 68 years of history. Aren't you glad we're not the 178th Senior PGA Championship?
Once again, welcome to the 68th Senior PGA Media Day. We have some very special guests from the audience that we'd like to take a few minutes to recognize. I believe everybody is here. Please stand up and give a wave.
From the town of Kiawah, mayor Bill Wert. From the Carolinas PGA Section, executive director Ron Schmid and assistant executive director Chris Mezinski. From the host site course at The Ocean Course, Buddy Darby, CEO of the Kiawah Development Partners. Brian Gerard, director of golf at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, and not to mention the PGA of America's 2006 Resort Merchandiser of the Year. Brian, congratulations. Steven Youngner, the PGA head professional at The Ocean Course, and superintendent Jeff Stone.
From our Senior PGA Championship office, championship director Brett Sterba. From PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, the director of PGA Championships, David Charles.
And please welcome, ladies and gentlemen, the chief executive officer of the PGA of America, Mr. Joe Steranka.
JOE STERANKA: Thank you, Julius. It's great to be back in one of the warmest golf communities there is anywhere in this country. I was introduced to Kiawah Island back in 1990 when I brought my family up for a vacation and got a chance to meet Buddy and Pat and the rest of the gang back then. We were preparing for the PGA Cup matches, which was a prelude to certainly one of the most memorable events in golf history, the Ryder Cup in 1991.
It was great to return here for a medal play event with our PGA Professional National Championship and the fact that Mike Small, who was our champion, was the only player under par. Just shows how tough this course is going to play for PGA of America Championship. It will be a test and we'll talk about that later.
But the PGA of America, we're blessed with 28,000 men and women professionals to go into many communities throughout this country. Virtually every community has a PGA professional and PGA staff golf facility.
Before we get into today's news, I do want to just extend our thoughts and prayers to the community had in Blacksburg, Virginia. Our Middle Atlantic Section is going to help people deal with the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy. Our hearts and prayers go out to them.
On to more happy news and the reason we're here.
Each and every year we have two ways that the PGA of America gets a chance to promote the great game of golf. That really goes back to the mission of the association. It's our major championship, such as the Senior PGA Championship. The day in, day out work of PGA professionals like those here in the Carolina section are going to help us with a Play Golf America Day. Play Golf America is our national initiative to introduce people to the game, maybe people who haven't played for a while and are looking for a reason to come back, and some new players. We're very proud of the game and the fact that it can be a real part of your lifestyle for your entire life.
On May 21st, at Patriots Point, Mt. Pleasant, the Carolinas PGA is going to participate in a Play Golf America Day and make the professionals available for free lessons. We'd urge you to share that news with the people that watch your shows and read your publications. It's a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some great people. There's an added incentive this year because the first 250 people to pre-register at PlayGolfAmerica.com are going to get two free practice round tickets (one pair per household) for the Senior PGA Championship.
In a little more than a month, the focus of the entire world of golf is going to turn its attention again to Kiawah Island, as it has in the past, for the Senior PGA Championship. And last year we had the coincidence, it was my first year as the association's CEO, so I'll remember it finely, Jay, your performance, and to do it in a playoff on NBC was even that much more exciting.
But it was another Pete Dye creation at Oak Tree Golf Club. And it's indicative, like the PGA Championship, the Senior PGA Championship really seeks some great golf venues, some historic venues with major championship pedigree. As I've discussed, certainly The Ocean Course here at Kiawah Island fits that bill.
Also the Senior PGA Championship routinely has the strongest field in senior golf or on the Champions Tour, and that mirrors what we do with the PGA Championship. I'd have to say that there's no event in senior golf history or Champions Tour history that has the field that we have this championship coming up. There was a story in today's paper that talked about every eligible member, including the captain of our 1991 U.S. Ryder Cup team, is going to be playing in this year's Senior PGA. I'll repeat a couple of them:
Seve Ballesteros, Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Greg Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price, Craig Stadler, Dave Stockton, Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, almost A to Z. 126 of the top 156 are committed to play in the field. We'll finalize the field on May 7th.
A few more stats for those of you who like the stats:
96, that's the number of U.S. players representing 31 states. 72 countries are going to be carrying the telecast of the Senior PGA Championship. 30 is the number of international players that are going to be representing 12 different countries. 24 is the number of major champions who have combined to win 60 major championships. Not only is Jay part of nine Senior PGA champions that are in the field here, we have 12 U.S. Open champions, 11 Ryder Cup captains, eight PGA champions, nine Masters champions, nine British Open champions, and 11 members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Again, I don't think there's ever been a collection like this that has teed off in a major championship on the Senior Tour.
It's befitting that the Senior PGA, with that origin that dates back to Augusta National, and being the oldest, we're proud of that almost 70 year heritage of the Senior PGA Championship, that it's one of the few events on network television. And the coverage that NBC Sports and USA Network will provide will be just on the same par that NBC presents the Ryder Cup matches for us or the U.S. Open and the Senior Open for the USGA. They're bringing in their top producer, Tommy Roy, their top talent, Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks, the entire NBC crew. You know that Kiawah is going to be shown off in all its glory.
The final number I'll give you is 34. That's the number of days until we get a chance to get back here and start this great championship.
So, Julius, thank you. Great to be back. Look forward to answering your questions later on.
JULIUS MASON: Thanks very much, Joe. You like numbers; we've got numbers (laughter).
Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to turn the microphone over to the president of Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the honorary president of the PGA of America, the general chairman of the 68th Senior PGA Championship, his wife Mary told me to say he's a really, really nice guy, Mr. Roger Warren.
ROGER WARREN: Thank you, Julius. Thank you, good morning, welcome to The Ocean Course. I have enough titles, so it's really about this event, the Senior PGA Championship. Really excited about bringing this major championship to South Carolina, the first major championship in South Carolina, and even more excited about bringing it to The Ocean Course.
Certainly I have a number of wonderful feelings about this. As a former officer of the PGA of America, member of the PGA, the person responsible for the administration of this resort and this golf course, and a lover of major championships, it's just a wonderful feeling to be able to bring the Senior PGA Championship here to The Ocean Course. And certainly over the years, as Joe said, we have attempted to bring wanted to bring this senior major championship to some of the great venues in the golf world. I think after this week, The Ocean Course will live up to that expectation of all the people in golf, including the players who play here.
We are excited that The Ocean Course is just recently recognized by Golf Digest as the most difficult golf course in the country. It's a mixed blessing (laughter). That ranking is rated on the very, very back tees, about 7800 yards. That's not the distance we'll be playing this golf course. It's part of the unique genius of Pete Dye to take a golf course that can from its back tee be ranked as the most difficult and challenging golf course in the country, yet be playable and enjoyable by the average play player that comes to this resort because of the placement of the tee boxes and the design of the golf course that allows every player who loves golf the opportunity to play this golf course.
The unique characteristic of this golf course obviously is the fact that it is a links golf course, seaside, and the wind is a major factor. If you've been out here the last two days, you would have understood wind as a major factor on this golf course. Never seen anything like it other than a tropical storm. We don't think it will be necessary to have that type of wind to make this a challenging golf course this week of the event.
As I said, the architect of the golf course is Pete Dye. We have been fortunate in a relationship with the PGA of America to have hosted, as Joe said, the PGA Cup Masters at Turtle Point in 1990, the Ryder Cup, now the Senior PGA Championship as well as the Club Professional Championship in 2005, and the opportunity to host the PGA Championship in 2012. It will make us one of only five golf courses in the country who have had the opportunity to host all of the major championships of the PGA of America and we're proud of that distinction.
I'm also here today to let you all know, to let your viewers, listeners, readers know that there are opportunities for them to see this event. Tickets are available. I'm going to give you some locations where they can get information about tickets. They can go to www.SeniorPGA2007.com or they can call 1-800-PGAGolf, which is 1-800-742-4653, for ticket information. Tickets will also be on sale at all of the visitors centers in Charleston. They'll be on sale out here on the island. There will be an opportunity for people who want to buy tickets to get tickets to this event.
One of the best things about this event, I believe, is the affordability of the event for people who love golf. The practice round tickets on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are $10 for adults. On Thursday and Friday they're $20 for adults. On Saturday, Sunday, they're $25. That's up to May 1st, then the ticket prices go up a little bit.
The most important thing is that juniors 17 and under, who are accompanied by an adult who paid for a ticket, get in free to the event. We're encouraging parents to bring their kids to this event to see major golf and to see these major champions, the wonderful players who have led the history of competition golf for the last 20 to 25 years, and they still play an important role in what the game of golf means and how much we enjoy watching them.
May 22nd there is a Pro-Am. There are still spots available in the Pro-Am that people who are interested can see our sales director to get into the ProAm. We would encourage people interested in doing that to do that.
Wednesday, May 24th, is the final practice round day at The Ocean Course. Cameras will be permitted during the Pro-Am and the practice rounds. Spectators also will be able to get autographs during that time, but certainly not during tournament play.
There are still daily Ocean Club tickets available for Tuesday and Wednesday. They're $20. That gets the patron who buys that Ocean Club ticket into the special Ocean Club that will be positioned right next to the driving range tee with a wonderful view of the ocean. Allows them to go in there and have a place to sit. It will be air conditioned.
Now also there are still a limited number of corporate hospitality opportunities available for people. We are very, very pleased with the corporate support from South Carolina for this event. They have helped us exceed our corporate budget in sales, but we still have opportunities for people available. It's a great opportunity for corporations to entertain clients and guests at a venue that is unsurpassed in its beauty, at a golf course that's unsurpassed in its challenge, and at a golf event that's unsurpassed in the quality of golf on the Champions Tour.
In closing on this particular part of my presentation, I just want to tell you how proud I am to be associated with Kiawah Island Golf Resort, PGA of America, the Senior PGA Championship and the state of South Carolina. This is an opportunity for the state and golf in this state to be recognized nationwide and worldwide for the quality of golf and the opportunity that people have to come to South Carolina to be a part of a great golf experience and to be a part of our tourism industry, which is the largest industry in the state, to continue to see that industry grow because of its importance to the state but more importantly because of what it means for people to come down and get to experience the Low Country lifestyle, which is something very unique and special.
Now it's my opportunity to talk a little bit about our defending champion and introduce him. Last year in my final year as president of the PGA of America, I stood at the 18th green at Oak Tree watching that day unfold. When Jay started, he was behind by four shots. He got to a point where he had a two-stroke lead midway through the event. Certainly I have to say I was very biased in wanting Jay Haas to win this event for a number of reasons. First of all because of the kind of person Jay Haas is, what he represents to the game of golf, what he had meant to us as a Ryder Cup player in 1993, 1995 and 2004, as a representative of this country on the Ryder Cup, and what he meant as a representative in professional golf to the state of South Carolina. Obviously we were pulling for Jay to have a successful day.
Right up to the point that Mr. Bryant made that last putt on 18 to put it into a playoff, as we're standing there ready to present the trophy, now we go into a playoff, it was a great playoff. It was great for the game of golf. It was great for this championship. It was exciting to see a person like Jay Haas win this championship.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce to you the present and defending champion of the Senior PGA Championship, Mr. Jay Haas.
JAY HAAS: Thank you, Roger, Joe, Julius.
One thing I noticed with that video, a couple things I guess, the first thing was those guys are really old in those pictures, weren't they (laughter)? I'm not that old, believe me.
Also I guess what Roger just touched on there, I still can't believe Brad made that putt on me. That swing he put on that 6-iron, he and I have talked about that in the most recent past here, what a great shot he hit, what great theater it became. I guess it just goes to show you how golf is and what a fine line it is from winning, finishing second, finishing 10th, whatever. Just not much of a difference there and how important one shot can be.
What a great course we played last year, Oak Tree. My first PGA Senior was at Laurel Valley. I missed the cut there. Was obviously very disappointed with that. I played pretty well, other than that, that year. I was looking forward to getting back to Oak Tree last year, trying to make amends for what I did there.
You know, I guess hearing some comments today about being four strokes behind, and I don't know if I even realize that, knowing that that golf course lends itself to many bogeys, tough course to hold the lead on. I guess I felt like I was in the tournament from the start of the last day. In fact, bogeyed the 2nd hole to fall at least four or five shots behind but ran off some birdies there on the Front 9 to get into the lead. In NASCAR talk, I felt like I changed tires way too soon there and I had to run those last few laps on some old tires. I'd gotten to the lead a little bit too quickly.
I think the course there last year, and especially this year, you will see so many people coming into the last round, barring someone going nuts the first three days, so many people will have a chance at a place like this.
I don't think it hit me until maybe Roger or Joe, someone said, How about defending in your home state? It didn't hit me till right then that I was going to be able to do that. Time has sure flown by. Almost 11 months gone by now since that happened. It seemed like such a long way off. I do remember turning 50, 51, realizing that the Senior PGA would be here in 2007. I was very much looking forward to that.
I just did an outing here for Canon about three weeks ago and had not been here in probably six or eight years. I forgot how difficult this place was. The times that I have played it, it hasn't blown very hard. You see some sand out there blowing off the beach onto the driving range. Like Roger said, we certainly don't need 40 mile an hour winds to make it an exciting championship here in the future.
I will say to have my name on that trophy, and I do think that trophy must get heavier every year because Trevino held it much easier than I did over his head there, but to have my name on that trophy and to see that video, to see all the different names on there, is something I will treasure the rest of my life. I'd like nothing better than to put my name right below 2006. I'd love to be on there twice. It's without question the most exciting tournament in my career. To be the defending champ of the Senior PGA Championship is something that I dreamt about as I turned 50 and was eligible to play in the event.
But to see Sam Snead six time winner, Hale Irwin four time winner, all the greats of the game on that trophy and to have my name alongside those names is something that, I don't know, it's just something that gives me chills, I guess, to have Roger here, knowing what he's meant to the PGA of America.
I guess what hit me last year, too, was the family I guess of the PGA of America, how important that is to the game of golf. I think that's something that sometimes we forget about, watching guys on the PGA TOUR and everything. But the PGA of America is where it all starts. I can't say enough about what they've meant to me and my career with the Ryder Cup and playing in PGA championships throughout my career.
But I just can't wait for this thing to get started. The course, as I said, I played three weeks ago, the course is in great shape. I love what they've done, kind of cleared things out a little bit, kind of opened things up. It is going to be just outstanding condition. And the list that Joe read off here is just I'm getting nervous already playing against some of these guys. But what a field that we will have here. What a championship. Already the history here in a course, the history that's already been made here. Then along with this tournament, 2012 the PGA Championship, special. To have a tournament like this at this golf course, to be the defender, is something I'll never forget. Thanks for having me.
JULIUS MASON: We're ready to begin the question and answer portion of the news conference.
Q.: Jay, what is the sense you get from other players about coming to The Ocean Course?
JAY HAAS: I think a little bit like I just touched on there about the history, about the Ryder Cup. I think that's an important part in the history of this golf course. I think the guys are a little maybe nervous about playing and knowing what happened there, the pressure that you can feel coming down the stretch, the type of holes that are out here.
But I think the sense is that everyone is really, really excited. I guess the World Cup was here 2003, so there's a few guys no, wouldn't be anybody that played in that playing here. But I think just what they've seen in the past, a few of the guys that have been here, in the Ryder Cup, just played it casually, I think they're all pretty excited about playing and realize that it's, as Roger said, the toughest or one of the toughest in America. I think everybody is anxious to get here and see for themselves what they can do.
Q.: Roger, what players have been down and played the golf course, say, within the last year?
ROGER WARREN: Well, I can tell you Dave Stockton was here and played. Ernie Els was here from the TOUR. Craig Stadler. Lanny Wadkins played here last year. He was down here on a golf outing. We've had some. We would expect more as we get closer to getting into it. Only a handful at this point have ventured. Peter Jacobsen also.
JAY HAAS: I would have expected some this week or maybe next week they might come by after the event.
ROGER WARREN: Right.
Q.: Roger, what yardage do you envision playing this golf course, the setup?
ROGER WARREN: I think it's 7201 will be the yardage. One of the things you may or may not know about our tournament setup, Kerry Haigh, our tournament director, will start with a plan, lay it out at 7201 yards. He'll have the tee markers and everything set up as a plan going in. But as clearly demonstrated over time, what we think is important as the PGA of America in setting up an event is that major championships play fairly.
Under different conditions, he will adjust the length of the tees so that the holes will challenge the players, but challenge in a fairway. I think Kerry said he wants to make sure a player can reach the fairway off the tees, but he doesn't care if a player can reach the green off the fairway. I think that really kind of sets up how the golf course will be set up. It will be set up fairly, but it will be a challenge.
Obviously the biggest challenge on this golf course is the wind and the direction of the wind and the fact that the wind can change directions in the middle of a round. So as we saw in the World Cup in 2003, the golf course was set up for one wind condition and direction, and the players practiced that way for the three days before the event. The first day of the event, the wind turned 180 degrees and it made the golf course a totally different playing golf course when that happened.
I think it will be a very fair setup, but obviously very challenging because it's a major championship.
Q.: Jay, do you have any thoughts on that? What yardage did you play it roughly in your outing?
JAY HAAS: Probably that. Maybe a little bit shorter than that. I think, for those of you who don't know the golf course, you have nine holes that run one way and nine the other. They kind of mix and match. You have four holes going out and nine going down the beach, then five coming back in. Yardage really almost doesn't matter here. If you get, say, even a light wind of 12 to 15 miles an hour, you're adding a club or two to almost every shot. 150 yards becomes 175. Whereas downwind, 150 yards might be 120.
The yardage I don't think is as important as some of the holes. If you get that nine hole stretch in the middle of the day into the wind, it just beats on you hole after hole. It doesn't have to be set up that long to really challenge us. There's not a lot of gray area here on though golf course. You're on the green or you might be down, run off into a grass bunker, a sand bunker. But, again, with a 15 mile an hour wind, which doesn't sound like a lot, but on a golf course like this, there's no protection, that really challenges. I don't care what level of golf you are, that's a challenging wind.
Q.: Jay, you talked about the realization that you would be coming here to defend the title in your home state. Since that day, how often have you thought about this and what kind of benefits, not necessarily financial, to you as a player come from being a Senior PGA champion?
JAY HAAS: Well, it's crossed my mind quite a bit. Any time I see, say, in the magazine some type of ad for the tournament, just a picture, a magazine laying on the table at home that has my picture on it or something about the tournament, I've thought quite a bit about it.
I think for me playing at home is quite a benefit but at the same time puts a lot of pressure on me. There's going to be I'll probably have quite a few people from Greenville, from that area, from the South Carolina area, down here watching me, pulling for me. Obviously I want to accommodate them and make it a good week for them, too. It's something that's been on my mind quite a bit, especially lately here in the last month or so, and will continue to be upwards to the tournament.
It's something that I'm obviously excited about, would have it no other way. I mean, Brad Bryant could be sitting here just as easily and nobody would be talking to me about it, I'd still be thinking bit and wondering if I could win my first Senior PGA.
As far as what winning the tournament meant to me, I think I got a picture from Julius of the Champions Dinner last year, imagined me in that room hosting that dinner, being in that picture the following year. I think just for personal pride, knowing that I could do that. People have asked me in the past, What's the greatest shot you've ever hit? There's some in the middle of the tournament, hit the prettiest 5 iron, hit it a foot from the hole, whatever. But the greatest shot I think I've ever hit is that putt on the last hole there to birdie the 18th hole last year and get into the playoff. Knowing it was a major tournament, knowing what it could mean to me, I guess that made it all the more special to make that putt when it mattered most. I made some nice putts on the Front 9 and hit some great shots on that Front 9 during a birdie stretch, but I don't really think about any of those other than the putt at 18 on the 72nd hole. To this day I tell people that's the best shot I've ever hit.
Kind of getting off track there, but I think the fact that I've won a major tournament, have my name on that trophy over there, is more of a benefit than I could put any kind of dollar figure on, quantify what it meant to me.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much, everyone, for joining us. We look forward to seeing you this afternoon.
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