MULE': Hass, Nelson and grazing cows

The names are forever linked: Byron Nelson and Fred Haas Jr. When Nelson died last week, it revived memories of Haas' greatest accomplishment, winning the 1945 Memphis Invitational and breaking Nelson's incredible – and unassailable – 11 consecutive PGA tournament victories.

It's a change of pace for the middle of football season, with LSU running roughshod over weaklings like Tulane and Mississippi State, but the passing of "Lord Byron" revived thoughts of a great Tiger of another sport and era: Haas.


Haas, who died in 2004, was the NCAA individual champion of 1937, and his LSU team won that year's national championship.


Originally ticketed to play golf at the University of Arkansas, in the state where he was reared, Haas competed in the Louisiana state amateur tournament in 1933 in Baton Rouge where he lost in the finals to Bobby Anderson, a freshman at LSU.


In the gallery that day was Senator Huey P. Long, who instantly envisioned the two boys bringing golf glory to his favorite institution. "Forget your scholarship to Arkansas," Long said to the 17-year-old Haas, "and get the recruits we need to win the national championship here." Haas sheepishly told Long that LSU would need a golf course to reach such lofty goals. Long wondered where. "I saw a lot of cows grazing across the street from the (football) stadium," Haas volunteered. "That would be a good place."

Long was taken aback. "Son, LSU is an Agricultural and Mechanical school. If I moved those cows, the farmers would be very upset."


LSU would eventually buy a course, and the Tigers would win the national golf championship as Haas beat teammate Paul Leslie for the individual title. It was the first time two players from the same school reached the national finals.


'Course, Long wasn't there to see it, having been assassinated two years before.


That was the backdrop to 1945 when Haas, still competing as an amateur, entered the Memphis Invitational. Nelson was having what still could be argued the greatest season in the history of the sport. He not only won 11 straight, but 18 for the year, and he was second in seven other contests. That accomplishment made Haas a historical footnote, though he won 125 amateur tournaments before turning pro.


"I didn't want to wake up at 50 and wonder if I could have won another PGA title."


Not to worry. In his first season, Haas won the Miami Open, the Long Beach Open, the Portland Open (in a playoff with Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer), the Peoria Open and the Thunderbird Open in Palm Springs.


Unlike today, those victories did not set Haas up for the rest of his life. "Our winnings were anemic," he once recalled, "but our expenses were small."


One footnote to Haas' LSU roots: Years after he was gone, LSU did build a golf course on campus. And it was right where Haas saw the cows grazing in 1933.


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NOTES & QUOTES: If people thought the reopening of the Superdome was fantastic with the Saints' fairytale performance against the Falcons, be aware that weekend could have had far more anticipation and excitement. Think of LSU playing Tulane Saturday at the Superdome instead of Tiger Stadium, and two days later the NFL's Southern rivals playing there. It could have happened. LSU was willing to play in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge in 2007. The NFL nixed the idea, probably thinking it would have taken some of the shine off their Monday Night Football extravaganza. The Tigers, of course, still would have won by five or six touchdowns, but it would have been a fun way to officially welcome New Orleans back to the major sports scene. …


News reporter Jim Varney is the odds-on favorite to take over the LSU sports beat for The Times-Picayune, which has been operating without a regular lead writer all season. A meticulous reporter interested in moving from a hard-news career to sports, Varney is a tireless pursuer of any story he is assigned. He'd be a major plus in the coverage of LSU athletics. …


Next year's LSU-Mississippi State game in Starkville may open the season on Lincoln Financial Television, the same outlet that carried Saturday's Tiger-Bulldog laugher. … Despite his 7-20 record thus far in his third season, Sylvester Croom is safe as coach of Mississippi State right now, according to Bulldog insiders. Croom will be evaluated after next season, they say. …


The best note coming out of the Tiger-Bulldog game is that in the second quarter when LSU built a 35-0 lead, State still hadn't accumulated 25 yards of total offense. At that point, the 'Dogs had 12 yards rushing and 12 yards passing.




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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