A Deacon golf roundup as teams head to NCAA regionals

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Wake Forest head coach Dianne Dailey talks with Sierra Sims during the ACC Women's Golf Champions in Greensboro, N.C., April 17, 2015. (Photo by Sara D. Davis, the ACC.com)

On Sunday, a week before his team’s NCAA regional in Austin, Wake Forest University men’s golf coach Jerry Haas played a round with his son.

“He’s a good player,” Haas said, adding some hereditary explanation: “You can’t get but so far off the track.”

A father’s pride in his son aside, it’s hard to argue with the Deacons’ head coach: Golf runs deep in the Haas family, and Wake Forest does, too.

Jerry Haas was a four-time All-American at WFU before graduating in 1985 and embarking on a professional career that included several years on the PGA Tour. Jerry’s brother Jay previously led the Deacons to consecutive NCAA championships in the 1970s, and his son Bill — Jerry’s nephew — played at Wake from 2001 to 2004, receiving two National Player of the Year honors.

But according to the current Deacs’ coach, heredity alone didn’t get the members of the Haas family to their titles and accolades.

“It’s not like all of a sudden you have a good grip because your uncle’s a good player,” Jerry Haas said. “You’ve got to put the work in.”

Haas’ career as a player and his 20 years as head coach at Wake Forest have brought him the proficiency needed to rebuild the Deacons into a perennial contender for conference and national titles, including three Top 10 finishes at the NCAA championships.

“I can relate to these guys,” Haas explained, discussing the peaks and valleys his players endure. “I know it’s not easy, I know what they’re going through… [As a coach] you have different relationships with different kids. Some are struggling, but that’s okay: When you start playing well again it makes you feel that much better.”

This year, Haas’ team enters the Austin regional ranked No. 10 nationally after a third-place finish in the ACC championship. Paul McBride and Will Zalatoris, both in their junior years, finished in the individual Top 5.

Even with this year’s tournament run incomplete, Haas anticipates greater success next season. A regular lineup of two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman means the coach doesn’t expect to lose any of his top players, and a great recruiting class is on its way in.

The coach explained that his team set a Wake Forest record for most total wins based on the modern scoring method, and next year he intends to break the record again.

Dianne Dailey — the women’s golf coach at Wake Forest for 29 years — can’t claim the same clan of golf greats as her counterpart coaching the men’s team. But her family led her into the game, too.

“Growing up, I wanted to do something, but I aged out of swimming,” Dailey said in a phone interview from Athens, Ga., where her team began the NCAA regional on Monday. “[And] I never could find tennis players.”

But Dailey did caddie for her father, and she quickly got hooked on the game after she first played.

In nearly three decades as the head coach at Wake, Dailey’s teams have won four ACC championships. Dailey has been selected as the ACC Coach of the Year four times, the LPGA Coach of the Year once, and was inducted to the National Golf Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

Still, the position has required a lot from her.

“The support was mainly for the men’s program when I first got here,” Dailey explained. “But we have a lot of support now… because we’ve been so successful…. We’ve basically been ranked in the Top 20 in the NCAA for the past 20 years.”

Whether it’s the support or the facilities, Dailey considers golf to be a major sport at Wake Forest.

“People know Wake for its golf program,” she said. “Both [women’s and men’s teams] have done very, very well. [Golf] is one of the most successful sports programs that we’ve had. We have such nice facilities because of donors — they believe in what we’re doing.”

Though the women’s golf program has gained support, this year’s team has had to face other challenges.

“We’ve had more injuries this year than ever, I can tell you that,” Dailey said. “We’ve had a really difficult time this semester fielding a team.”

Two of the Deacons suffered tendonitis, while another pulled a muscle in her ribs and a fourth had a hand injury, the coach explained.

But Dailey has a team of five strong golfers on the course this week in a regional that ends after press time. Jennifer Kupcho — Wake Forest’s 2016-17 Female Athlete of the Year — led the Deacons into the tournament, entering the contest on a WFU-record streak of nine consecutive rounds of par or better.

As their respective teams swing into regionals, Haas and Dailey seek their first NCAA championships — a title that has eluded both coaches in nearly 50 combined years of pursuit.