Haas’ experience at Bellerive is evident in first round

ST. LOUIS — Jay Haas remembers when he had to hack his way around Bellerive Country Club.

“The first time I played here, I think I was about 16 or 17,” he said Thursday. “I shot a couple 80s, or something. It was a man’s course, and the ball didn’t go very far back then.”

Fast forward four decades and the 59-year-old is fresh off a five-under par 66, good enough to place him in a two-way tie for first place after the Senior PGA Championship’s rainy opening day at Bellerive.

Haas – now a resident of Greenville, S.C. – was born in St. Louis and spent his childhood in Belleville, Ill. He credited some previous knowledge of the course – an estimated 30 rounds between casual outings with friends and previous competitions – as a factor in his Day 1 success.

“I’ve played here, I would have to say, more than anybody in the field,” Haas said. “Although that’s not a lot, I’ve still played probably 20, 25 rounds more than anybody else.”

He collected five birdies and no bogeys, and enters Friday tied with Duffy Waldorf, whose 66 came late Thursday afternoon.

“Certainly very excited about shooting 5-under here,” said Haas, the winner of the championship in 2006 and 2008. “Probably my lowest score ever here at Bellerive, no matter what age I was.”

Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at frederickson.ben@gmail.com.