Harold Varner III is showing that he’s going to be more than a novelty on the PGA Tour.
With Tiger Woods sidelined with a back injury, Varner has been the only black player competing this season on the PGA Tour.
Varner, who played at Forestview High in Gastonia, N.C., and graduated from East Carolina in 2012, is coming off a pair of top-10 finishes in the past two weeks in his rookie season on tour, a tie for ninth in the Valero Texas Open and tie for eighth in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Those finishes followed four consecutive missed cuts and a finish of 68th at the RBC Heritage.
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“It’s been a little bit up and down,” Varner said. “… But I think if you just keep working at it, you’re going to work through those down times and that’s what happened the last two weeks. I’m coming around and I’m trending in the right direction.”
Varner spent three seasons in golf’s minor leagues, including the past two on the Web.com Tour, and barely earned PGA Tour membership by finishing 25th on the 2015 Web.com money list.
He now has three top-10s including a tie for fifth in November in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
Varner played in the 2014 Wells Fargo during his first season on the Web.com Tour and missed the cut with rounds of 78 and 72. He believes he’s more prepared to fare better this week, though he admits it will be challenging to focus with tons of friends and family at the course and around for the week.
“The last time I was here I was like, ‘Oh, it will be fine, nonchalantly,” Varner said. “Then when the week came and I got on the first tee, I was like this is way over my head. I think I’ll do better this week.”
I haven’t had any negative things happen to me. I don’t really think about it much. I’m not sure if some of the players do. They treat me as if I was any other color, which is awesome. I think that’s how everyone should be treated.
Harold Varner on being one of just two black players on the PGA Tour
Varner said he has been treated like any other golfer on tour. “I haven’t had any negative things happen to me,” Varner said. “I don’t really think about it much. I’m not sure if some of the players do. They treat me as if I was any other color, which is awesome. I think that’s how everyone should be treated.”
U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captain Davis Love III played with Varner in the RBC Heritage and was most impressed with his fun-loving attitude.
“He’s a fun guy to be around,” Love said. “I think he’s just so positive and he’s got a lot of energy. He hits like all these guys. He hits it solid and he’s a good putter. I just like his attitude. That’s his strength.”