Varner relishes 'journey' to reach PGA Tour stage


NAPA, Calif. – Harold Varner was the Tour’s iron man, playing in all 25 starts on the developmental circuit this year. 

He still needed to make a 15-foot slider to earn his PGA Tour card.

Sitting on the top-25 bubble, he sank the birdie putt in the second round to make the cut and ensure that he would become the first black golfer to earn his card via the Tour.

“It was such a grind and just the lead-up to one putt, I couldn’t even imagine that,” he said Tuesday at the Open, where he will make his debut as a full-time Tour member. “I was playing earlier in the year and I’m like, Ah, I’ll get my card. Six months later, one putt.” 

Lighthearted and gregarious, Varner was one of the most popular players on the circuit. He is sure to get a lot of attention this year too because of his compelling backstory.

Unable to play many of the elite junior events because of financial constraints, he discovered his love for the game by playing every day at Gastonia (N.C.) Municipal for $100 per summer. Later, he would work as a cart boy at the course, and it was there that he met his instructor, Bruce Sudderth, a former Champions Tour rules official, with whom Harold still talks “all the time.”    

Varner went on to star at East Carolina and had dreams of making an immediate splash on Tour, but he failed to advance through Q-School in his first attempt.

“That was the first time where I was like, This is not as cool as I thought it was,” he said.

He played his way onto the circuit, and then now onto the big tour.

“It’s a journey,” he said. “It’s not just a sprint. If it was a sprint I would be already done, for sure.” 

The Frys is just his fourth career PGA Tour event, after spot starts at Riviera, Quail Hollow and Merion.