PGA Tour Winner Fred Haas: The Streak-Buster

Fred Haas Jr pictured in the 1950s

Fred Haas wasn't just the golfer who ended Byron Nelson's 11-tournament win streak in 1945. He won that tournament while still an amateur. Haas went on to a productive PGA Tour career. He won four more tournaments in the 1940s and 1950s, and also had success in senior golf before the Champions Tour existed. Haas was also the first golfer to play in both the Walker Cup and Ryder Cup.

Full name: Frederick Theodore Haas Jr.

Date of birth: January 3, 1916

Place of birth: Portland, Arkansas

Date and place of death: January 26, 2004, in Metairie, Louisiana

Also known as: Freddie Haas, Fred Haas Jr.

His Biggest Wins

In amateur tournaments:
  • 1934 Southern Amateur
  • 1936 Canadian Amateur
  • 1937 Southern Amateur
  • 1937 NCAA Championship
Haas is credited with five official tour wins on the PGA Tour: As a senior golfer:
  • 1966 Senior PGA Championship
  • 1966 World Senior Championship
Haas also won the Louisiana State Open in 1959.

In the Majors

Fred Haas Jr. didn't win a major championship and didn't come very close. He made 44 starts in majors and had three Top 10 finishes: 10th place in the 1950 Masters, knocked out in the quarterfinals (tied fifth) in the 1952 PGA Championship, and tied sixth in the 1954 U.S. Open. His first start in a major, playing as an amateur, was in the 1935 Masters; his last, the 1973 PGA Championship. Haas posted Top 20 finishes in six other majors, best a tie for 12th in the 1953 U.S. Open.

Ending Nelson's Streak

The 1945 Memphis Invitational was played two weeks after the Canadian Open. Byron Nelson had won the Canadian Open, just as he had won each of the 10 previous tournaments he'd entered on the PGA Tour. Nelson was riding an 11-tournament win streak.

And Fred Haas is the golfer who ended that historic win streak.

Haas wasn't some little-known PGA Tour pro at the time, because he wasn't a pro at all. He was still an amateur when he got into the 1945 Memphis Invitational. Haas was nearing 30 years old and selling insurance in New Orleans at the time of his streak-busting victory.

"Shucks, I was lucky," he told the Associated Press after winning. "No amateur has a right to win one of these things. Nelson and Snead got off to a bad start, that's all."

Sam Snead, who tied for sixth, said of Haas: "Freddie has as good shots as any of us and he's been playing tournament golf about as long. He's hit his stride."

Haas carded rounds of 69, 69, 64 (a course record) and 68, riding a hot putter to an 18-under total of 270. He won by five strokes over George Low Jr. and another amateur, Bob Cochran. Where was Nelson? A 73 in Round 2 was his undoing. He closed strong, but finished on 276, in fourth place.

Don't feel too bad for Lord Byron, though: He went on to win another four tournaments before the end of the 1945 season, finishing with an unassailable-record 18 wins.

Over the next 80 years, only seven other amateurs won PGA Tour tournaments. But for Haas, his win over Byron Nelson and everyone else in the 1945 Memphis Invitational was the proof that he really was good enough to turn pro and play the tour, which he did beginning in 1946.

More About Fred Haas

The Senior of Fred Haas Jr. was an avid golfer who built a six-hole golf course on his land. And he encouraged young Freddie to play as a potential way of paying for college. It worked: After winning the Arkansas state high school championships in 1932 and 1933, the junior Haas was offered a golf scholarship by the University of Arkansas.

But before he headed off to college, Fred Haas Sr. took a job as a golf pro in Bastrop, Louisiana, about an hour away from the Haas' hometown of Portland, Arkansas. The junior Haas entered the Louisiana state amateur championship and advanced to the final before losing. And watching in the gallery during that tournament was the legend-in-his-own-time Louisiana pol Huey Long.

Long thought Haas Jr. was hot stuff and recruited him away from the University of Arkansas and to Louisiana State University. Haas switched schools, and his career at LSU made clear it was a good choice: He reached the final of the match-play NCAA Championship in 1935, won a Southeastern Conference championship, then won the 1937 NCAA Championship.

Haas did plenty of winning outside of collegiate golf, too, during his time at LSU. (And his father moved on to New Orleans, becoming pro at a club there.) He started making his mark by winning the prestigious Southern Amateur in 1934, as well as one of the biggest junior events of the time, the Western Junior. He repeated in the Western Junior in 1935, as well as winning the Chicago District Amateur; and added a second Southern Am title in 1937. Haas also won the Canadian Amateur, plus the amateur division of the Waterloo Open in Iowa, in 1936.

His best showing in the U.S. Amateur was reaching the quarterfinals in 1935. He also made the Round of 16 in 1934 and 1937.

Haas also played in an exhibition match with Bobby Jones at a club near New Orleans in 1934, and in 1935 Jones invited Haas to play in The Masters. That's how Haas came to play in (and tie for 37th in) the 1935 Masters.

Haas capped off his amateur career by playing for Team USA in the 1938 Walker Cup. Alas, Haas lost both matches he played, including a 5-and-4 defeat by Team Great Britain's Alex Kyle in singles.

After graduating from LSU, Haas moved to New Orleans and started selling insurance. It was seven years before his next big win, but it was a doozie: That 1945 Memphis Open on the PGA Tour. Haas was still an amateur then, but he turned pro to try his chances at a professional tournament career.

It turned out to be a long, successful career. Although Haas was never a big star on the PGA Tour, he was a well-known, solid player and consistent money-earner for many years.

He came close to win No. 2 at the 1947 St. Paul Open, where he lost in a playoff to Jim Ferrier.

The 1948 PGA Tour season was Haas' best in terms of high finishes. He was runner-up in his hometown New Orleans Open early in the season.

At the Reading Open, Haas had a 5-stroke lead over Ben Hogan going into the final round. But Hogan threw a 64 at him, and a tournament-record 269 total, and Haas wound up second by one stroke after a final-round 70.

A few weeks later, Hogan relegated Haas to second place again by one stroke in the Denver Open. And then Haas had another runner-up, losing a playoff to Ed Oliver in the Tacoma Open Invitational (there were three others in the playoff as well — it was the first 5-man playoff in PGA Tour history).

But Haas finally got a win (his first since turning pro) and a measure of revenge against Hogan at the 1948 Portland Open Invitational. Hogan birdied the 72nd hole to tie Haas and Johnny Palmer. In the 18-hole playoff, though, Haas scored 70 to Hogan's 71 and Palmer's 75.

Haas had another 18-hole playoff victory in the 1949 Miami Open, beating PGA Championship winner Bob Hamilton. His fourth win was by five strokes in the 1950 Long Beach Open.

Haas' steady play got him named to another United States national team, this time for the 1953 Ryder Cup. Haas didn't get into the foursomes, and he lost again in singles, this time 3-and-2 to Harry Bradshaw.

But Haas did do something no other golfer had ever done: By playing in the Ryder Cup, he became the first golfer ever to play in both the Walker Cup and Ryder Cup.

Haas' last PGA Tour victory was in the 1954 Thunderbird Invitational. His score that year of 20-under-par was (and remained) the tournament record. Attempting to defend his title in the 1955 Thunderbird, Haas lost in a playoff to Shelley Mayfield.

That was one of many runner-up finishes in tour events for Haas. The biggest of those seconds were in the 1952 Canadian Open, 1953 Western Open and 1954 Colonial National Invitational. Haas was also runner-up (although by seven strokes) in the 1955 Texas Open. That's the tournament where Mike Souchak set multiple all-time scoring records, including a 257 total that wasn't beaten until 2001.

Haas finished in the Top 10 on the PGA Tour money list twice, in 1949 and 1955.

PGA Tour statistics show that Haas made 402 career starts in official tour events, with five wins, 15 second-place finishes and 13 thirds. He made the cut in 352 of those tournaments, with 63 Top 5 finishes and 116 Top 10 finishes.

Haas turned 50 in 1966, and that year he won the biggest title then available in "senior golf," the 1966 Senior PGA Championship. That entitled him to travel to Scotland a play in the World Senior Championship, a match that pitted the winner of the Senior PGA against the winner of the British PGA Seniors Championship. Haas beat Dai Rees for the title, 3 and 2. Haas also had Top 10 finishes in the Senior PGA in 1967 (third), 1968 (fourth), 1969 (tied fifth), 1970 (second to Sam Snead), 1971 (tied ninth), 1972 (tied fifth), and 1977 (second to Julius Boros).

The Champions Tour wasn't founded until 1980, 14 years after Haas won the Senior PGA. He did make 146 career starts on the senior tour, though, with one Top 5 finish and four Top 10 finishes. But Haas was already 64 years old when the tour was created, and was 83 years old when he made his final Champions Tour appearance in 1999.

Fred Haas Jr. was 88 years old when he died in 2004. He is a member of the Gulf States PGA Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame and the Louisiana State University Hall of Fame.

Haas was not related to the father-and-son Haases who came after him on the PGA Tour, Jay Haas and Bill Haas.

(Book titles are affiliate links; commissions earned)
Alliss, Peter. The Who's Who of Golf, 1983, Orbis Publishing.
Brenner, Morgan. The Majors of Golf, Volume 3, 2009, McFarland and Company.
Eugene Register-Guard. "Fred Haas Tops Portland Open," October 5, 1948,
The Evening Independent. "Pro Golfers Say Victory by Haas Can Help Sports," August 20, 1945,
Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. "Fred Haas Jr.," "Former Tiger and NCAA Champion Golfer Freddie Haas Jr. Passes Away,"
PGA of America. 2018 Media Guide, Senior PGA Championship. "Fred Haas,"
Scharff, Robert. Golf Magazine's The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1970, Harper and Row.
United States Golf Association. Official USGA Record Book, 1895-1990, Triumph Books, 1992.

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