October 14, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Harold Varner is one of 17 rookies on the 2015-16 PGA TOUR Season. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
NAPA, Calif. -- The 2015-16 PGA TOUR Season starts this week at the Frys.com Open. For Harold Varner III it feels like golf never ended.
The 25-year-old played in all 25 Web.com Tour events this season. Still, he needed to make a 15-foot bender to make the cut in the final event before the Finals to become the first black player to earn his card via the Web.com Tour.
“It was such a grind and just the lead-up to one putt, I couldn't even imagine that,” Varner said Tuesday from Silverado Resort. “I was playing earlier in the year and I'm like, Ah, I'll get my card. Six months later, one putt. That's what we play for. I never thought like, Ah, I might not get it done. It was like, No, we're going to make this. That's the attitude I need to have out here.”
Varner is one of 17 rookies on TOUR this year and one of the more compelling stories given his background.
He learned the game at Gastonia (N.C.) Municipal, where he could play for $100 for the entire summer. He also worked in the cart barn at Gaston Country Club, which is where he met his instructor and former Champions Tour rules official Bruce Sudderth.
Varner eventually landed at East Carolina and after failing in his first shot at q-school worked his way through the Web.com Tour.
Just 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, Varner is a “freak” athletically, says his trainer Jeff Fronk. Last season, Varner averaged better than 313 yards off the tee. He also hit nearly 72 percent of his greens in regulation.
He likes basketball and football but never got tall or big enough to play either at a high level. He also said that Tiger Woods’ success didn’t necessarily motivate him -- at least when it came to Tiger being black -- but he hopes he can have an effect on others.
“I want to inspire all races,” Varner said. “I didn't see Tiger as a black or white thing. I just knew he was the best player, and he happened to be black.
“If me playing golf brings more African Americans to the game, then the more the merrier. But I want to bring all types of people to the game. That's my goal.”