Bill Haas makes pro debut at Booz Allen


The list is short. Especially in golf. Sons who follow their fathers into sports have the blessing of excellent preparation, but the curse of expectations. Having the same type of success typically proves too difficult.

Ask the sons of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Raymond Floyd, major championship winners who have all had sons try professional golf. It is almost unfair.

The latest to try is Bill Haas, who makes his pro debut this week at the Booz Allen Classic after competing with his father, Jay, at last week's U.S. Open. They became just the second father-son tandem to make the cut in the same U.S. Open.

Jay never had major-championship success, but his nine PGA Tour victories and overall consistency are still impressive feats. At age 50, he is playing some of the best golf of his life, still ranked among the top 20 players in the world.

"People always ask me if it's been tough or a lot of pressure growing up as his son and trying to live up to expectations or whatever,'' Bill Haas said at the Open. "I try to explain that it's just not like that with us. Don't get me wrong, he's the reason I play golf. He's been my teacher, my mentor and idol as a golfer growing up. But he's never put pressure on me, and he was just as supportive when I was younger. He's been a great role model as a golfer and a father.''

Bill Haas, 22, has a sponsor's exemption into the Booz Allen Classic, one of seven he can receive this year. He will try to earn enough money to get special temporary membership status -- thus allowing him to accept unlimited exemptions -- with the hope of earning his PGA Tour card for 2005 without going to the qualifying tournament. He'll need to be among the top 125 money winners by the end of the year.

Last month, Haas graduated from Wake Forest, where his uncle, Jerry, was the coach. He won five individual titles as a senior and set an NCAA record for scoring average at 68.93. Ryan Moore of UNLV beat him at the NCAA championships but Haas was named the collegiate golfer of the year.

Haas had never made a cut in a PGA Tour event before tying for 40th at the U.S. Open. He knows his college success now means very little.

"I'm nervous, but I'm certainly not intimidated,'' he said. "I haven't done so well in previous PGA Tour starts, but I'm anxious to see what happens once I get out there a little more regularly. I really think the toughest part is going to be mental because I feel good about my game. If I can get out there and make a few cuts and start to feel like I belong, I think I'll settle in and do pretty well.''

Five Things To Watch
1. Rory Sabbatini defends his title at the Booz Allen Classic, formerly known as the Kemper Open.

2. Justin Leonard, the 1997 winner of the tournament, has never missed a cut in eight previous appearances at the TPC of Avenel.

3. With a good number of players taking the week off after the U.S. Open, this might be a good time for a first-time winner. The event has had seven in 17 years at the TPC at Avenel.

4. Rachel Teske defends her title at the Wegmans Rochester LPGA event.

5. Allen Doyle defends his title at the Champions Tour's Bank of America Classic near Boston.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.