‘Slightly nervous’ Sam Harrop a hit at Presidents Cup
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Using Justin Thomas’ advice, social-media sensation a hit on Presidents Cup’s first tee
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
United States Team song for Presidents Cup
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Justin Thomas is playing his third Presidents Cup and is 6-2-2 for his career, so it’s not unusual for rookies to ask him how to handle nerves.
In this case, though, the rookie was singer/songwriter/keyboardist Sam Harrop. They were at the VIP party at the Westin hotel on Tuesday night, and Harrop, who had come from the south coast of England to belt out his International and U.S. Team songs for fans on the first tee, was feeling anxious.
Thomas told him that everyone, even the world’s best golfers, felt first-tee jitters, and he would be fine. Harrop was. With a 12:08 p.m. start Thursday – “Sounds like a tee time, doesn’t it?” – golf Twitter’s beloved crooner commenced playing from his perch in the stands, a Presidents Cup first. The crowd quieted down and even laughed, cheered and/or jeered at his lyrics.
“It was an adrenaline rush like I’ve never experienced,” said Harrop, whose golf-themed cover songs have earned him nearly 20,000 Twitter followers, including many of the TOUR players he writes songs about. “I’ve never done this!”
This Presidents Cup has set new standards with the more than 500,000-square-foot buildout, among other benchmarks, but it has also been the first of its kind in involving Harrop, a married father of two who works for a sheet music publisher in his day job. He flew here Sunday with his manager/former bandmate Jonathan Haselden not knowing what to expect.
Haselden, who said they’re like an old married couple, had never even been to a golf tournament.
“Sam’s generally always been pretty humble about his talents,” Harrop’s wife, Julia, a child psychologist, said via email from London. “I think he’s been more surprised than anyone by how it’s taken off. He gets really happy when any of the pro golfers reference him or re-tweet one of his songs.
“He’s had cool things sent to him, too,” she continued, “like an engraved club and more recently his precious Tony Finau-signed cap!” (Harrop calls himself perhaps Finau’s biggest fan.)
Harrop and Haselden used to play in a band called RedBoxBlue. Haselden was the lead singer; Harrop was the keyboardist. “We were the first band in the world to do a gig live on Facebook,” Haselden said. “London, 2008.” Alas, their fate was like that of so many bands: They broke up.
For a while, Harrop scratched the creative itch by writing songs about family members, but he was always such a golf nut that it made sense to mash up two of his greatest passions. When his golf parodies began to take off, he enlisted Haselden to be his manager.
Their first order of business this week was to sit with members of both teams to make a sort of music video of the U.S. and International Team songs, with the players singing lyrics. Harrop assumed they wouldn’t know him – not true; Finau, the subject of some of his earlier songs, knew who he was – and was pleasantly surprised when they played along.
“They all got into it,” Harrop said. “Jordan Spieth, Max Homa, Tony Finau – they got the lines out and they’re not terrible singers. Taylor Pendrith was in a band when he was younger. He wasn’t a singer; he played guitar, so we talked about that. And Tom Kim said he’d rather run around a room naked than sing, but two minutes later, he sang.” Harrop chuckled.
As for Thomas, he refused to sing, but played along, otherwise, Harrop said.
“J.T. was the most engaging one,” he said.
The collaboration resulted in a pair of videos that made the rounds on social media.
Then came the VIP party before the man who has been called “golf’s premier parodist” took his moment in the sun shortly after lunch Thursday. Adapting the lyrics of “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News to the specifics of the U.S. Team, and “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire to the makeup of the International Team, Harrop belted out his latest masterpieces.
The crowd ate it up, especially the line that the U.S. Team might just win by five.
“I told him, ‘You might get booed when you’re singing the other team’s song,’” Haselden said. “And he did, a bit, but in jest. What’s cool is how well received he is – no negativity at all.”
Haselden and Harrop were in the hospitality chalet to the right of the first tee with the matches about to begin. Harrop, clutching a cold beer, was trying to come down off his performance high while taking in the scene. “I’m meters away from Jack Nicklaus,” he said, awe-struck.
They planned to fly home after the second round Friday. Harrop said he would be taking a bus from Heathrow Airport to his house about two hours outside London.
“I’m not big enough for a private car,” he said.
Next week he’ll be back to his normal life, taking the kids to school. He doesn’t play as much golf as he used to, but the kids – Georgia, 9 and Theo, 7 – are old enough to go with him to the driving range. Be that as it may, Harrop will likely continue spending more time with keyboard than clubs. After all, the Ryder Cup in Italy is only a year away; now is not the time for rest.
Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and golf.com joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.