Twitter is not always the best place to gamble with a little experimentation. Judgment can be harsh and uncaring. Golf Twitter – despite the etiquette and decorum associated with the game – can be as judgy and polarizing as the rest of the social media landscape.
But Sam Harrop sat down at his piano and made a little leap of faith in early 2020, putting himself out there to his golf social media brethren.
“Many of you will know by now that music is my first love (though golf’s pretty high to be fair),” he tweeted. “So … I decided to pen an ode to Tony Finau, set to the tune of an REO Speedwagon classic. As you do. First time I’ve done something like this, so go easy on me.”
When Will Tony Finau Win Again? was – in its own I Can’t Fight This Feeling way – an instant classic. Harrop’s followers went from around 800 to a few thousand practically overnight and quickly grew to 12.5K. His little quips – delivered with the good humor of a roast and not malice – resonated with golf fans.
Many of you will know by now that music is my first love (though golf's pretty high to be fair)
So…I decided to pen an ode to Tony Finau, set to the tune of an REO Speedwagon classic. As you do.
First time I've done something like this, so go easy on me 😊
RTs appreciated! pic.twitter.com/9FpX6cB2aw
— Sam Harrop (@sam_golf) February 6, 2020
Its two biggest endorsers – PGA Tour star Tony Finau himself as well as REO Speedwagon founding member and drummer, Alan Gratzer. With that backing, a new golf social media star was born.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Harrop said of the response. “You never know what to expect from Twitter. It can be slightly toxic at times. And from all my songs I’ve seen few very negative comments, though obviously the occasional one. For the most part, people love it and started demanding more – ‘When’s the next one? Who’s next?’ That was something I didn’t expect really. I thought I’d do this one song and maybe people will like it or they won’t and that will be it.
“There seemed to be a niche there that needed to be filled.”
Golf has developed lots of niches on social media, from trick-shot artists the Bryan brothers to impressionist Conor Moore to Monday Qualifying aficionado Ryan French. Harrop – a 40-year-old father of two from Poole, near Bournemouth, on the south-central coast of England – fills the bill for golf’s own parody singer. It’s a role he played masterfully on deadline at the USGA’s request during last month’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
“That was huge for me,” Harrop said. “They originally wanted me to fly out to Torrey and perform on a soft stage outside the ropes after each day’s play. For COVID and visa reasons it wasn’t possible to get out there so I did the three songs virtually, which was amazing and unexpected. Doing something for the USGA is not something I thought would ever come of this.”
“Somewhere in my head I’m always making stuff up like that to lines of popular songs. I do it with my kids as well. It was in my psyche somewhere and just came out.” – Sam Harrop
Truthfully, Harrop expected nothing at all to come of it. His accidental entry into the realm was organic. It’s not like he had some grand design to be the “Weird Al” Yankovic of golf musical parody. He’s long loved music – his day job is working for Hal Leonard, the world’s largest sheet music publisher – and he’s more of a golf fan than he is a golfer.
“Music has been a huge hobby of mine for a long, long time,” he said. “I’d never done any parody stuff, though weirdly with my friends I sometimes put their name in the line of the song in a joking way. Somewhere in my head I’m always making stuff up like that to lines of popular songs. I do it with my kids as well. It was in my psyche somewhere and just came out.”
A self-described “golf nerd,” Harrop remembers watching the Masters and Opens with his dad as a kid and immediately gravitated toward fellow left-hander Phil Mickelson, who had the kind of immense talent and hard luck that drew his attention.
“I just enjoyed watching how a final round plays out and the psychology of it and all the tension of it was kind of fascinating,” Harrop recalls. “As I got older, I just started watching the regular tour events and stuff and gradually built up more knowledge about it.”
As his knowledge of the game accumulated, Harrop started a golf betting blog – the now-defunct Golferpuntersguide.com – that pulled him deeper into the game’s statistical minutiae. Then came Twitter, where following players and others in the game helped fill in all the little on-going narrative threads about the principal characters and the sagas surrounding them on and off the golf course.
“You kind of build up a picture of these characters – whether they’re accurate pictures, I don’t know,” Harrop said. “You’ve never met these people but you build up an idea of someone. Items just start coming in my head about songs and that’s really what happened with the Tony Finau one.
“I thought it was a really fascinating story that he’s obviously an amazingly talented player, but just really struggles to win. It was after the (2020) Phoenix Open, his latest sort-of ‘near miss’ where, really, he should have won. Everybody was talking about it and I got this idea to that REO Speedwagon song. So I thought, I’ll record it and put it out there and see what the reaction is.
“My maybe 800 followers from my golf betting days shared it and then others shared it and it snowballs and snowballs. I didn’t expect that to happen. As soon as Tony himself replied to it, it went huge after that.”
“I definitely try not to go below the belt with anything. I’m aware some of the stuff I’ve done could not be taken the right way.” – Sam Harrop
What made the Finau piece – and his dozen or so subsequent songs – stand out was the level of detail thrown in that illustrates Harrop’s keen understanding of the game. Little throwaway digs, cleverly biting but not too sharp, are brilliant little Easter eggs for golf fans: “putting’s not everything, look how it turned out for Lee;” “When was Puerto Rico? feels like 2010; No offense even Charles Howell’s won since then;” and “it’s wins we’ll remember in the end; Rocco Mediate’s got 10.”
Like a good comic roaster, Harrop doesn’t try to cut too deeply. But he’ll pick at players’ flaws (the putting woes of Lucas Glover and Ben An) or foibles (the enigmatic nature of Anthony Kim or Victor Dubuisson) in a good-natured way that has – as yet – not crossed any lines to make a subject upset.
“I definitely try not to go below the belt with anything,” he said. “I’m aware some of the stuff I’ve done could not be taken the right way. I can imagine Lucas Glover might not like his because it’s not particularly complimentary, but it’s not a character assassination. There’s nothing really nasty in there. It’s supposed to be poking fun and having a joke in that British humor kind of way without meaning to cause offense.”
For the most part, players actually seem to like it. Brooks Koepka retweeted Harrop’s recent song (sung to As Long As You Love Me by the Backstreet Boys) about his feud with Bryson DeChambeau, declaring “It’s a hit.”
Although pettiness has often been a friend of mine
You’re playing right into my hands
Just the thought of you has got me rolling my eyes
Don’t make me mention the ants
It’s a hit 💯 https://t.co/gFICucKCWs
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) May 28, 2021
Tommy Fleetwood mentioned in an interview that he was flattered by Harrop’s tribute ditty (to Maggie May by Rod Stewart) about his hirsute style and calling him “Southport’s very own Finau.” Justin Rose gave a personal thumbs up to Harrop’s song about him.
The ultimate feedback came from his original golf hero, Mickelson, in response to Harrop’s offering before the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud.
So Lefty you’ll be hitting bombs ’til you’re 70
They won’t go straight, but you’re the king of recovery
Hear that Winged Foot victory call
This time Ogilvy’s not there to ruin it all
Quick before they roll back the ball
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe this … year … the … career slam lands
Mickelson’s reply on Twitter: “I’m inspired.”
“It didn’t inspire him to success in that tournament, but I’m going to take credit for a few months later (at the PGA Championship),” Harrop said.
Bryson DeChambeau has been a frequent subject for Harrop. Before he Hulked-out and became the talk of the PGA Tour, Harrop nailed golf’s mad scientist with a take on Bonnie Tyler’s classic Total Eclipse of the Heart. It included the prescient observation “Turn around Bryson, every now and then you fall apart.” And the perfect kicker.
Once upon a time you made science look cool
Now you’re overplaying the part
Bryson DeChambeau, golf isn’t science, it’s art.
“It’s really a case of finding a subject where there is a real obvious narrative,” Harrop said. “There’s always got to be a real hook, some leading narrative to build out from. Tends to be people popular on Twitter or being talked about, the players who are easy to write about.
“I think one of the reasons people respond to them is they already know the tunes and they engage with them a little bit more.”
The best parts are all the little side references. In his Want You Back For Good by Take That parody of Anthony Kim’s competitive disappearance, he referenced Robert Allenby (“He won’t remember”) and “It’s been so long J.B. Holmes has played 18.” His ode to a lost Masters and Augusta, Georgia (sung to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer), he references Dustin Johnson falling down stairs, Jordan Spieth “still on 12,” Charley Hoffman leading on Thursdays and Bubba Watson’s awkward Butler Cabin handshake with Billy Payne.
His Going Deep on Monday Q (sung to REO Speedwagon’s Keep On Loving You) mentions Patrick Reed, Alex Čejka, Corey Conners, Adam Metzger, Brad Adamonis and Frank Lickliter, among others. His tribute to the PGA Tour’s Top 125 (A Long December by Counting Crows) he jabs Rory McIlroy.
And it’s four more wins for Dustin Johnson
It use to be that guy from Holywood
Maybe one day he’ll have his own green jacket
I think he should
Harrop has done songs about Rory Sabbatini, Andrew “Beef” Johnston (for Cobra, sung to the Beatles’ Hey Jude), Eddie Pepperell and even did a duet with PGA Tour caddie Aaron Flener about his man J.T. Poston making his Masters debut.
“I’m trying to cater to those real golf nerds like myself who are going to get those,” he said. “It’s great when you reach the mass appeal of the Brooks-Bryson feud, but when you can get in those deep cuts, those are the ones I chuckle to myself and I know some people are going to like this. It may only be 5 percent of the people listening to the song, but it’s worth it.
“My wife couldn’t be less interested in golf and she finds it all a bit bizarre and doesn’t understand the references in the songs and doesn’t understand why people would be interested in it as well. We have this weird separate world.”
One of Harrop’s personal favorites is about mysterious Frenchman Dubuisson, sung to Madonna’s La Isla Bonita.
Might withdraw with hours to spare
That’s Victor Dubuisson
Ranked 17 we dreamed of more
Now you’re behind Shiv Kapur
“The Victor Dubuisson one almost came to me in a dream,” he said. “I had this idea that his name would fit really well to La Isla Bonita and I thought, ‘I could really turn that into something.’ The response to that was a lot more than I thought.”
Forensic Twitter followers noticed that the small picture that hangs on the far wall behind Harrop playing at his piano always changes with the subject – what he called “just a nice little added touch” for the true golf nerds.
His breakout Finau song was posted shortly before the world shut down with the pandemic, so suddenly Harrop found himself with extra free time on his hands to channel his energy and make up new parodies.
“So, in a way it was helpful because I was able to produce more of them but in another way a misfortune in the sense of some of the opportunities I might have had,” he said.
Harrop said he has a phone full of notes with potential lines and some half-sketched ideas about Spieth, Laurie Canter, Harry Higgs, Tim Clark, Matt Every, Graham DeLaet, Erik van Rooyen, Patton Kizzire and Ángel Cabrera – “He might be tricky to do and not hit below the belt,” he admitted. He’s trying to arrange a collaboration with the PGA Tour to sing his own song.
“Probably some won’t ever see the light of day but some of them will,” he promised.
His brand would seem to mesh perfectly with the European Tour’s irreverent social media campaigns, and he’s had talks with them and others about potential projects. “I never really expect anything to come of these things, but a few things may bubble up out of it,” he said.
“Watch the space,” he said of his Twitter and YouTube pages. “I’m hoping things will get bigger and more opportunities will present themselves and kind of take it to the next level where I may be able to move on from the day job. We’ll see.”
© 2021 Global Golf Post LLC
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