Gastonia's Harold Varner III talks about life on the PGA Tour
Life on the PGA Tour has its perks, Harold Varner III is learning.
“I just got a brand new car this week,” said Gastonia’s Varner, who is playing in this week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. “We get one every week. The money’s cool. (The media) being around watching me is kind of cool. I enjoy that, all these cameras.”
But in Varner’s quieter moments, it’s not easy. As he has set out in his first year on tour – during which he already has a fifth-place finish and two other top 10s – he’s discovered some very real, more intangible challenges.
“It’s lonely,” Varner said. “Everyone kind of does their own thing, which is fine. I kind of have to have fun by myself, which is kind of weird. But I didn’t realize how people just kind of went about their own way.
“I think I’m doing a little bit of that myself, which I guess is good in a way.”
Varner is just one year separated from life on the Web.com tour, which he describes as having a more collegial and inclusive atmosphere. But, after graduating from East Carolina in 2012, Varner spent three years in golf’s minor leagues before earning his Tour card last fall.
I just like his attitude. That’s his strength.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, on Harold Varner III
His rookie season has been, as he puts it, “a little bit up and down.”
In his fourth start, he finished tied for fifth in the OHL Classic in Mayakoba (Mexico). The downs came during a stretch in which he missed four consecutive cuts. But over the past two weeks, he’s been impressive, finishing tied for ninth at the Valero Texas Open and tied for 10th in the Zurich Classic.
“It’s still golf, in my eyes,” said Varner. “When you’re out there for four weeks, you have to rely on yourself. My caddie tells me you’ve got to back yourself, which is something I think everyone should do, but I don’t do a great job of it all the time.”
Varner has played well enough and shown enough promise to catch the eye of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, who played with Varner recently at Hilton Head. Love didn’t say that Varner is ready to be considered for this year’s team, but he likes what he has seen.
“He’s on the radar,” said Love. “There are a bunch of these guys that you’re interested to see if they can get some points. (Varner) hits it solid; he’s a good putter. I just like his attitude. That’s his strength.”
Varner grew up in Gastonia and played at East Carolina.
This is the secon appearance in the Wells Fargo Championship for Varner, who missed the cut in 2014. That was a one-off for Varner during his Web.com days and he admits he didn’t handle the experience well.
“The last time I was here, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll be fine,’ nonchalantly,” he said. “Then when the week came and I got out on the first tee, I knew I was in way over my head. I think (with experience) I’ll do a lot better this week and, then if something crazy happens, next year I’ll come back and I’ll figure out how to avoid that.”
With Tiger Woods not playing, Varner is, for the time being, the only African-American player on tour.
“I don’t really think about it much,” said Varner. “I’m not sure if the players do. They treat me as I was any color. I think that’s how everyone should be treated.”
Varner said he will have plenty of friends and family at Quail Hollow pulling for him. Again, that might have been a problem two years ago.
“I hope I’ll do a better job of ignoring them,” he said. “I have a few friends that like to have a little fun, and I paid them a lot of attention. That’s something that’s not good.
“If I want to go accomplish what I want to accomplish, just quiet the noise and take care of business. We’ll have fun afterward.”