There are any number of reasons to admire Harold Varner III – he’s genuine, charming and generous – and before he hits his first official shot in the Wells Fargo Championship this week, he already has won hearts again.
This week could be about Varner, who grew up in Gastonia, N.C. – not far from Quail Hollow Club – and he’s in a featured pairing with Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. He’s going to win one of these days and, when he does, Varner’s star power will explode because of his personality and general joy.
For Varner, the early part of Wells Fargo week is about his buddy Daniel Meggs, who has been in a life-and-death struggle with cancer for a while now. Meggs was a top-level player, good enough to imagine doing what Varner does today, but now he’s sick and it’s serious.
If his health allows it, Meggs will caddie a hole or two for Varner in the Wednesday pro-am. If not (a fever developed earlier this week), Varner will have him there in spirit.
That’s not all Varner has done for Meggs, who went to Wake Forest on an Arnold Palmer Scholarship like Webb Simpson, Bill Haas and others before him.
Prior to the Masters, Varner reached out to Tiger Woods and asked if he would send a message of encouragement to Meggs, whom Woods does not know. Varner and Woods have become friends but still Varner knew it was a big ask.
On the Wednesday before the Masters, Woods sent a short video for Varner to pass along to Meggs. It wasn’t long – 17 seconds – but the message was succinct. Think about that for a moment – Woods was 24 hours away from starting a Masters he would win and he did the video for his friend’s friend.
“This was really genuine. It was very thought out,” Varner said. “He didn’t just put the phone to his face and whatever. I thought that was really cool.”
Varner and Meggs have known each other since they were kids, playing junior golf and Carolinas Golf Association events against each other. They reconnected last year when they ran into each other at a popular Charlotte pub. That’s when Varner found out the gravity of Meggs’ illness.
“He’s just fighting, man,” Varner said. “Every time I talk to him on the phone, it’s just so encouraging. Just full speed ahead. It’s easy to say you would do that, but for him to be in that position and actually do it is something else.”
For Varner, this is a home game, a chance to see his parents and his friends and try to jump start his season, which has gone flat after a strong start. It’s about more than this week, too.
After Woods won the Masters, Varner called Meggs.
“For a good 20 seconds, we didn’t say anything,” Varner said. “We just cried. I’m glad he wasn’t in front of me because I would not have said anything. It was just super awesome.”
That’s Harold Varner III.
* The Green Mile gets most of the attention at the Wells Fargo Championship and for good reason.
It’s almost ridiculously difficult.
In the history of the Wells Fargo Championship, holes 1-15 at Quail Hollow have played 1,144-under par. Holes 16-18 (the Green Mile) have played 6,305-over par.
* The Zurich Classic of New Orleans deserves credit for its team format, a nice break from the standard 72-hole stroke-play event that is the backbone of professional golf.
Has it captured the imagination of players and fans? Not entirely but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It would help if more stars played in New Orleans – Brooks Koepka was the only top-10 player in the field – but once tournaments begin, it’s about who is playing rather than who is not.
Ryan Palmer is one of the PGA Tour’s true good guys and seeing him win again, nine years after his last victory, was heartwarming especially given what he and his family have been through the past few years with his wife, Jennifer, battling cancer.
* Edoardo Molinari’s release of the European Tour’s memo detailing slow-play violators opened eyes if only because it’s typically a closely guarded secret.
Molinari, like others, is fed up with the sloth-like pace of play, citing a 5-hour, 30-minute round as an unacceptable example of what’s happening.
Louis Oosthuizen was one of three players who have been fined for multiple slow-play warnings but the tour has not levied a true penalty – adding strokes – to this point.
This isn’t likely to change anything but the more attention focused on the problem, the better. Until the players decide to take action to push each other to play faster, don’t expect anything to change.
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