College reunion: Haas, Strange team up for Legends
Defending champ says pairing 'a good match?
They will make for a dynamic duo, these Demon Deacons, come April in Savannah.
One half is Jay Haas, the affable two-time defending champion of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at The Club at Savannah Harbor.
The other half is Haas' former Wake Forest teammate, Curtis Strange, a World Golf Hall of Famer who has been known to be more demon than deacon in the heat of competition.
"I think personality-wise, Curtis and I have always been a good match," Haas said Monday. "He was always a lot more intense than I was, so that was a good blend."
Haas came to the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa for media day and announced Strange will be his partner when the 31st annual tournament returns April 21-27 as an all-team event for the first time since 2001. In Savannah for the sixth consecutive year, the Champions Tour event will count as an official win with official money for players in the Legends Division of the three-bracket tournament.
Haas, one year Strange's senior at 54, has known his playing partner since Strange was a high school senior visiting the college campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., on a recruiting trip. They have played together in college, on Walker and Ryder Cup teams and in countless practice rounds.
"We know our strengths and weaknesses," Haas said. "I think both of us would like the other one to hit it 30 yards farther, but we don't. Our games are fairly similar, club-selection wise."
Haas recounted a story that illustrated Strange's intensity during the 1975 Walker Cup at St. Andrews in Scotland. College students at the time, they teamed to play in the alternate-shot format.
On two consecutive holes, Haas left 30-foot putts about three feet short, frustrating his teammate, to put it kindly.
" ' Knock them by the hole,' he says. 'I cannot make them when they're short. If they go by, I can make them coming back.' '' Haas recalled. "He's screaming at me."
At the next hole, Haas faced the same scenario and didn't disappoint.
"I hit this thing. It hit the back of the hole and popped up and went in the hole," Haas said.
Strange's reaction: "See!"
Expect a mellower atmosphere more than three decades later.
"I don't think there will be any broken friendships over this week of the tournament, especially on our side."
There are natural pairings, such as brothers Lanny and Bobby Wadkins, and power pairings, such as Fred Funk, who won the Champions Tour's 2008 opener, and Wake Forest alumnus Scott Hoch, who already has won two other tournaments.
"I'm sorry to hear Scott and Fred are playing (together)," Haas quipped. "That's a tough team there. I think that's what you're going to see. You'll see some teams you think are just going just knock everybody dead, and some other teams that just might surprise some people."
It will surprise no one if Haas continues his successful ways in Savannah, and he would have no problem sharing a title after winning the last two in the individual stroke play format.
"I guess I can be the perennial defender at this event as an individual," Haas said. "I hope it does not ever change again. I love to see it here."
He believes the format change has the tour players' full support "to a man."
"For me, being a two-time defending champion, it really didn't matter to me," Haas said. "I enjoyed it as an individual event, but I'm really, really excited about this year."