Rob Taylor/The Daily Reflector (Photographer)
By Ronnie Woodward
Thursday, June 13, 2013
With a couple of practice rounds complete and a new Cleveland Golf bag displaying his name and an East Carolina logo, Harold Varner is set to make his PGA Tour debut this morning.
And this isn’t just any PGA event — it’s the U.S. Open.
The former East Carolina standout tees off at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., at 9:01 and is hoping to put together two rounds that will allow him to make the cut and keep him on the course through Sunday. Varner, Conference USA’s 2012 Golfer of the Year, was added to the field last Sunday night as a first alternate.
After completing a practice round Wednesday, Varner said during a phone interview that he’s looking forward to his initial tee shot today. He will start on the 11th hole and finish on No. 10.
“I want to get going and I’m excited,” said Varner, who will be playing with Wil Collins and Kevin Phelan today and Friday. “I know when I start playing, I’ll be fine. … I want to get off the tee and play my game.
“Once you’re inside the ropes, it’s time to go.”
As of late Wednesday afternoon, the 22-year-old — who was the first black golfer to win the N.C. Amateur in 2011 — had not met Tiger Woods, although Varner added, “hopefully I’ll be playing with him this weekend.”
The former Pirate said he had a difficult time during Tuesday’s practice round — his first time playing Merion — and was often faced with blind shots. But he said he was more prepared and comfortable on Wednesday.
He played 10 holes by himself on Wednesday, then linked up with PGA regulars Bill Haas and Nick Watney for most of the back nine.
Varner’s highlights in Ardmore include spending time with Brandt Snedeker, who has five PGA Tour wins and tied for eighth at the 2010 U.S. Open.
Weather has been the story leading up to this Open.
The course — which is the first measuring less than 7,000 yards to host a major in nine years — was hit with heavy rain Monday, cutting into practice time. Tuesday and Wednesday brought better conditions, but today’s forecast calls for thunderstorms and a 70 percent chance of rain.
The rain derailed the intented hard, dry conditions to challenge golfers because of the course’s narrow fairways. A soggy terrain could now lead to much lower scores than those at last year’s tournament, when Webb Simpson won with a score of 1-over.
Varner, who plays on the North Carolina-based eGolf Tour, said the conditions shouldn’t drastically alter his plan.
“Just keep it simple to have a chance, and I’ll do my best to get it done,” Varner said of today’s round. “You can’t win (the tournament) on the first day, but you can definitely lose it on the first day.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 or follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.
via The Daily Reflector.