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Rich Stevens: Wake Forest alums offer advice to Woodward

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Woody Woodward's red hair and fair skin isn't very conducive to all-day exposure to the sun.

His golfing ability, however, is a nice fit for a future with the game he loves.

The former Bridgeport High School player finished his prep career in Hilton Head, S.C. and he'll continue it at Wake Forest University.

It just so happens that multiple former Demon Deacons have made quite a living chasing around the little white ball and two of them were showing off that ability during four days at the fourth annual Greenbrier Classic.

Just nine years ago, Bill Haas graduated from Wake Forest. He has five wins on the PGA Tour and teed off a few minutes before Sunday's 1:50 p.m. weather delay, beginning the final round at 8-under par and six strokes behind leader Johnson Wagner.

Five years ago Webb Simpson finished at Wake Forest. He came in with a 3-under for four rounds at the Greenbrier Classic and finished 10 strokes off the lead.

Haas graduated with a degree in religious studies and Simpson studied religion. Maybe religion should be somewhere in Woody's class schedule.

Woody's older brother Jay attended Penn State University. Woody will tell you, jokingly, that he didn't choose Penn State because he wants to win - and he prefers warm weather.

The ridiculously rich history of Wake Forest golf is a clear indication that maybe Woody's career path is lined in gold.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but the Demon Deacon credentials are undeniable.

Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins, Billy Andrade, Len Mattiace, Jay Hass, Haas and Simpson are Wake Forest alums.

Don't forget Darren Clarke, Gary Halbert, Robert Wrenn and Scott Hoch.

Palmer has won 62 PGA Tour events, including seven majors. He and the other 11 former Wake Forest players have combined for 140 victories on the PGA Tour and 11 majors.

Think about that.

"There's a lot of pride from the Wake alum and I think everybody that goes there sticks together, it's like one big team, one big family," Simpson said.

If Woodward wants to follow in that tradition, Bill Haas - whose uncle Jerry is the head coach at Wake - has plenty of valuable advice.

"Golf is a very big deal there for Jerry and the team, so you get plenty of time to practice," Bill Haas said. "Getting it done in the classroom prepares you for everything outside of golf and you'll play a lot of good competition and play in some good golf tournaments."

Jerry Haas is in his 17th season guiding the Demon Deacons, who have boasted 15 All-Americans during his time there.

"I think he's going to be coached by the best," Simpson said. "I love Jerry. He taught me so much and Wake's just a great environment to learn academically and about golf.

"I think it's of the utmost importance to have a guy who's played the tour, who has been in the big moments and knows what we go through."

The elder Haas played on the European Tour in 1988 and 1989, finishing 57th on the money list in '89. After finishing third at qualifying school in 1989, Haas played fulltime on the PGA Tour in 1990 and '91. He spent time as a commentator for The Golf Channel and was a teaching pro in his hometown of Belleville, Ill.

His nephew said that the goal of Wake Forest players should be to beat their coach in a round.

"He has tons of energy," Bill Haas said of his uncle. He has been there before so any advice he gives you is coming from experience, not just opinion. He's won on the professional level, played on the PGA Tour and played in the Masters. If (he and his team) went out and played, he'd be the best player.

"My advice is to go out and play with coach a lot and try to beat him. If you can beat him, then he'll be alright."

Woody has come a long way since playing in Top-Flite Tour events as the chubby little brother of Jay.


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