Harold Varner III got what he wanted Sunday afternoon – his PGA Tour card.
And he got what he wanted Monday – a day of rest at his parents’ house in Gastonia after an overnight flight from Portland, Ore.
“I just wanted to sleep. It was such a grind,” Varner said after a mid-week refresher session with his swing instructor Bruce Sudderth at Gaston Country Club.
It took until the last round of the last regular tournament on the Web.com Tour for Varner to lock down his PGA Tour playing privileges for the 2015-16 season, and it didn’t come without some squirming from the 25-year old East Carolina graduate.
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Sitting in 25th spot on the money list and knowing the top 25 earned their Tour cards at the conclusion of the WinCo Foods Portland Open, Varner finished Sunday about the time the leaders were teeing off.
As the day unfolded, the math became simple – if Tim Herron won and Dicky Pride finished second – Varner would fall out of the top 25. But if Pride won and Herron finished second, well, that’s what happened and that’s how Varner was handed his new PGA Tour card in Oregon.
“It’s rewarding for sure, but I still have work to do,” said Varner, who played two full seasons on the Web.com Tour, finishing second in two events.
On the PGA Tour, Varner will join Tiger Woods as the only African American players , and given Varner’s engaging personality he is poised to be a star. He’s instantly likable, plays golf aggressively and is finally on the game’s biggest stage.
Varner also understands the reality of his situation. When the new PGA Tour season begins in October at the Frys.com Open in Napa, Calif., he’ll be a member just like Woods, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and the other familiar faces. But because he’s the last man in off the Web.com money list, his priority ranking will make it difficult to get into tournaments initially.
He’s hopeful he can play two of the six events this fall before the holiday break. For that reason – and the experience – Varner will play the four-event Web.com finals, which begin next week and include the Small Business Connection Championship at River Run Country Club in Davidsonon Sept. 17-20. If Varner plays well through those four events, he’ll have a better chance of getting into more PGA Tour events.
The better he plays on the big Tour, the more events he’ll have an opportunity to play. Varner came close to earning his PGA Tour card last year, but he struggled near the end of the season. After a strong start this year, Varner’s play sputtered again this summer, but he managed to hold on to the 25th spot.
“I feel more prepared than I did a year ago,” said Varner, who lives in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. “There’s so much I learned this year that will help me down the road. Last week was the first time when I’ve hit it bad for all four days, but I still took care of the business I needed to take care of.
“Being out here for two years, you learn how to travel and you learn what works for you. You learn how to operate.”
Varner, who has played in three PGA Tour events, including the Wells Fargo Championship in 2014, has the blessing of power. He ranks seventh on the Web.com in driving distance, averaging 313.8 yards while also ranking 33rd in greens in regulation. If he can putt more consistently, Varner has the potential to succeed on the PGA Tour.
As the first African-American to earn his PGA Tour card via the Web.com Tour, Varner has already drawn more attention than most of the other 24 players who are moving up with him.
However, Varner said it’s not about being a black golfer on the PGA Tour. It’s about being a golfer who happens to be black on the PGA Tour.
“I want to inspire everyone, not just African American kids,” Varner said.
He’s on his way.