AIKEN -- He is not Tiger Woods, never was and never will be.
He is a nine-time winner on the PGA tour and 22-year PGA veteran. He is Jay Haas and he delivered a message of developing your own style on the golf course and in life to 24 high school golf teams. Speaking in the Woodside Plantation clubhouse Thursday, Haas helped open the 1998 Joe Wyatt Memorial Tournament which begins today.
Haas stressed the importance of individuality to the teen-aged golfers from South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia during his 15 minute speech. He said lessons learned on the links also relate to everyday life.
"You have to be yourself and not try to be like anybody else," Haas said. "If you can do it your way, that's the best way."
The 1993 Texas Open champion pointed to his own success on the golf course as an example. Haas said his long game pales in comparison to that of a Woods or a Phil Mickelson, but there are ways to compensate. Once while playing with Mickelson he watched his playing partner's ball sail 40 yards past his own.
"He said `did you get my letter,"' Haas said. "Yeah I sent it air mail when I passed over you."
As he has seen time after time on the PGA tour, Haas found redemption.
"About a year later we were playing together again and my ball was about 40 or 50 yards closer to the hole than his. I said to my caddie `Aren't they going to build one of those super Wal-Marts out here?"'
"My caddie said `Yeah, but where?' and I said between my ball and Phil's."
Haas has learned a lot about life from golf such as not trying play beyond your personal limits. He's discovered how to put the past behind you and how to win and lose gracefully.
"Patience is a big key," Haas said before the dinner began. "I learned to be myself and not to try too many shots like Tiger or Greg (Norman). I learn something everyday I go out."
Lakeside senior Jason McKenzie understood the value of knowing what he can and cannot do. He said in practice he might try a shot like one of the PGA pros but match play demands only his best.
"In tournaments I play my game," McKenzie said. "I know I'm not those guys."
Off the course, Haas made his rock-n-roll debut in Hootie and the Blowfish's Only Want to be with You video. Remaining true to his theme, he played himself putting a golf ball on top of a pool table.
It will be 12th place showings, like the one he had in this year's Masters, that will pay Haas' rent as he remains a one-hit wonder in the music industry.
"I'll probably retire on that, I haven't gotten any calls lately."