Standing on the edge of the Whistling Straits practice green Tuesday morning, Titleist Brand Ambassador Bill Haas
watched as his caddie Michael Maness furiously scrubbed away specks of
red paint and green scuff marks from the bottom of one of Haas' Vokey
Spin Milled wedges.
"How the heck did that happen?" one passerby
remarked. Haas smiled. As he started to tell the story, a few others
moved in closer to listen, including Titleist's Bob Vokey, who had
stopped by to talk wedges.
For the record, there are no artificial golf mats or red-ringed range balls here at the PGA Championship, only bent grass and dune grass and a lot of grass in general, not to mention piles and piles of brand new golf balls.
But Haas took his first swings of the week in a different location,
right off Interstate 94 at the Raymond Heights Golf Center, a 9-hole
par-3 course and driving range just south of Milwaukee's General
Mitchell International Airport, from where Haas had to pick up his
girlfriend around 8 o'clock Monday night.
Leaving from downtown Chicago, Haas hit the road a bit early to avoid Monday's rush-hour traffic. A bit too early, perhaps.
"Well, I have three hours to kill," Haas thought as he crossed Milwaukee city lines. "What do I do?"
a bit stiff after a workout that morning, Haas typed "driving range"
into the Google AroundMe app on his mobile phone. "Raymond Heights Golf
Center" popped up. Minutes later, Raymond Heights' large billboard
appeared on the side of I-94, and Haas put his blinker on.
"Might as well hit some balls," Haas thought.
He pulled his clubs out of the rental car, then walked into the pro
shop. He asked for a large bucket. The man behind the counter,
52-year-old owner Tim Stare, told him it was $6.50. Haas handed over the
Stare gave Haas his change and a punch card for a free bucket of balls with the purchase of 10 buckets.
"Oh, I'm not from here," Haas told him. "Don't use it on me."
Stare paused for a second, staring at his customer. "Are you from South Carolina?" he asked Haas.
"Your dad is Jay, right?"
"You're Bill Haas!"
A bit awestruck, Haas, wearing just shorts and a brown T-shirt, said "Yeah, I am."
Stare shook his head. "I caddied for your dad in the 1975 U.S. Open at Medinah," he said. "Did he send you here?"
Haas said a lot of people tell him that they know his father, nine-time PGA Tour winner and fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Jay Haas, "but they've usually just met him once or whatever."
Stare first met Jay at the 1975 U.S. Open, when players were still
using local caddies. Stare was working then at Oak Park Golf Club, and
received his assignment for Medinah in a random drawing. Playing as an
amateur, Jay finished tied for 18th that week (74-69-72-78) with Stare
on the bag, and the pair made a point to keep in touch.
year, Stare received the Haas family Christmas card and put it on his
refrigerator. Many years later, Jay did a clinic at Raymond Heights
during the week of the Greater Milwaukee Open.
Stare said it clicked it for him the second he heard Bill Haas'
Southern drawl. "I've seen you grow up on my fridge," Stare told him.
the talk, Bill headed out to hit balls. Stare eventually walked out
with another bucket of balls, having hand-picked the best of the bunch.
Bill called his father soon after, leaving the following message on
his voicemail: "Raymond Heights driving range. Where is it, and have you
When Jay called back later, these were the first words out of his
mouth: "Is it about five miles south of the Milwaukee airport?"
"He knew exactly what I was talking about," Bill said.
said "the most random part about it" is that he rarely stops anywhere
on the way to tournaments, preferring to just get there as soon as
possible. Dad knows that, too.
"What are the odds that you would stop at that driving range on the way up there?" Jay said. "That's cool."
Like in a Haas family Christmas card hanging on Stare's fridge, both father and son were smiling.