The 26-year-old Stow resident rolls out of bed and spends the next five to six hours playing a video game. But it’s not just any game. It’s Golden Tee, the arcade golf phenomenon found in more than 100,000 bars and restaurants throughout the world.
Yes, this is the life of the best Golden Tee player on Earth.
In September, Haas won $20,000 in the Golden Tee World Championships in Las Vegas, and the world rankings currently list him as the game’s top player. Even though he won’t say how much his pro turn as a Golden Tee competitor earns him annually, it appears to be lucrative. Haas is one of about 10 people in the world who call it their full-time job.
“In order to make a good living at it, you have to treat it like a job,” he says. “If I mess around all day, I’m not going to make any money.”
It’s a viable way to make a living, too, because Haas doesn’t depend only upon big-name tournaments in Vegas to earn money. Incredible Technologies, the company that created Golden Tee, connects all of its machines via an internal modem, so Haas can compete in a tournament against 50 others every time he plays. Each winner takes home a small $10 prize. But Haas wins a majority of the tournaments in which he plays, and he can play about 60 games in six hours —usually at one of a handful of bars around Stow.
“I really don’t care for video games, which sounds weird,” he says. “I think the reason I like [Golden Tee] is you can never beat it.”
Haas first encountered Golden Tee at a bar in 2002, while he was a finance and statistics major at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and gave it a try. He says he fared no better than the average rookie player and didn’t find the game overly exciting. But his initial experience made him curious to try to it again.
“It looks so simple,” he says. “You look at it and think,it shouldn’t be that hard.”
When Haas figured out he could make money playing the game, he began to take it a little more seriously. A quick Google search uncovered a series of larger Golden Tee tournaments held throughout the country, all with cash prizes. He entered his first tournament in Cleveland in 2003 and finished almost last. But he was hooked.
He began practicing a couple hours each week at a Buffalo Wild Wings he frequented off campus. When he graduated without a job, he kept playing and soon found himself turning a profit when it came to winnings earned versus quarters spent.
Even with his recent success, Haas plans to retire from the Golden Tee circuit within the next two years and finally put that finance and statistics degree to use.
“I realize it’s not going to last forever,” he says. “At some point, I’m going to need to get a real job.”