AKRON, Ohio – Harold Varner III will have plenty of support from the crowds this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But it remains to be seen if he can translate support into a season-saving performance.
Varner is making his first career WGC start, having earned a spot in the 76-man field by winning the Australian PGA Championship in November. And what better place to make a debut than Akron, where Varner was born in the same hospital as LeBron James and Steph Curry.
“It was pretty cool, after I got done practicing me and one of my best friends and my caddie went to my grandmother’s house and then we went to the house that I was, not born in but where grew up,” Varner said. “Pretty weird to see, you know, that and where I live now. It puts things in perspective. I think it’s real easy to forget where you come from, and understand that I just bought a boat for what some of these houses are. It’s humbling.”
Varner is glad to have a spot in the no-cut event at Firestone Country Club, and his PGA Tour card could hinge on his play this week. He currently sits 133rd in the season-long points race and is not yet qualified for next week’s PGA Championship, meaning this could be one of his last opportunities to accrue points.
While many in the field at Firestone are looking to build playoff momentum, Varner is simply looking to keep his card. But he did finish T-23 last week at the RBC Canadian Open last week, one of just two top-25 finishes he's had since April.
“I’m starting to play a little bit better,” Varner said. “I think it’s just a great opportunity for me to get the season back going in the right direction, and what better place than where I was born?”
Varner also spent part of his childhood in Gastonia, N.C., and he admitted that he struggled to balance on- and off-course priorities when he first played in the Wells Fargo Championship on a sponsor invite. He feels that this time around his focus is where it needs to be heading into a marquee first-round grouping alongside Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose.
“I’m going to be mowing the grass next Monday. It’s fine,” Varner said. “I have a job to take care of, I have a great opportunity and I’m just going to do my best not to just blow it away.”