Harold Varner III takes a trip down memory lane
Harold Varner Jr., better known to his family and friends as Duece, is the unofficial ticket broker for this week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. And Varner is more than happy to help. After all, that’s one less thing for his son, Harold III, to worry about as he makes his debut in the exclusive global series in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. “I got 20 a day,” the second-year PGA TOUR pro says with a smile. “He’ll take care of it.” The younger Varner punched his own ticket to play at Firestone Country Club when he won the Australian PGA Championship in December. He closed with a 65 to beat Andrew Dodt by two and former world No. 1 Adam Scott by four. Varner dedicated the win at RACV Royal Pines Resort to his “Day 1s,” which is what he calls the people who have been “pulling for me since day one” of his pro career. Plenty of “Day 1s” will be in his gallery at Firestone this week. Varner, who was born in the same hospital as his favorite athlete, LeBron James, lived in Akron until he was 6 years old. That’s when Varner’s father, a car salesman, moved his brood to Gastonia, N.C., which is about half an hour west of Charlotte, where next week’s PGA Championship will be played. But most of his extended family still resides in Akron. “I really don't know what it will be like,” Varner said when asked about playing in his hometown. “… All (but one of) my aunts and uncles on my mom and dad's side live in Akron, so it's great.” In fact, one of those aunts, Janet Varner, spent nearly two decades working at Firestone as a cook. Varner’s father, also an avid golfer, got to play there a couple of times before they moved but his son was too young. Still, the elder Varner, who usually shoots between 75 – on a really, really good day,” Harold III says, grinning – and 85, got his son Fisher-Price golf clubs when he was 2 years old. It didn’t take the youngster long to gravitate toward the game as he grew older in N.C. “He just dropped me off on the way to work,” Varner recalls. “I loved it. There was a lot more opportunity, obviously, down in North Carolina, especially when it comes to golf. You play year around.” Varner used to come back to Akron in the summers to visit his grandparents, though. When he was in the Rubber City, he’d often go practice and play at J.E. Good Park, a municipal course designed by Bert Way in 1924, two years after the Englishman created nearby Firestone South, which not coincidentally hosts the Bridgestone Invitational this week. (Robert Trent Jones redesigned the South course in 1960). Varner even played in the Good Park Junior twice. He won it the first time he played, when his age group only played nine holes, but the following summer was somewhat forgettable. “I moved up the next year and I played so bad,” Varner said, shaking his head. “I had to be 12, 13, 14 maybe. I was obviously young because I remember the course being so long.” Varner, who turned pro in 2012 after earning a marketing degree from East Carolina, has enough length to tackle any course these days, averaging 301.2 yards off the tee to rank 28th on TOUR. He is looking for FedExCup points, though, so this week’s Bridgestone Invitational is much more than a trip down memory lane. Varner ranks 133rd right now and has three weeks to work his way into the top 125 to make the Playoffs and secure his card for next season. He’d also like to play his way into the PGA and have back-to-back “hometown” events. “It's a great opportunity for me to get the year going back in the right direction,” says Varner, who tied for 23rd last week at the RBC Canadian. “Starting to play well, so I'm excited.” Not only has Varner been preparing for the Bridgestone Invitational, he also found time to give PGATOUR.COM these 18 things people might not know about him. And he wrote this piece published Tuesday in The Players Tribune. 1. I’m allergic to shellfish. 2. I am a huge NBA fan. 3. I am a huge NFL fan. 4. I am a huge fan of Lebron and any team he plays for (you heard me Cleveland). 5. My girlfriend and I love HGTV. 6. I am a big-time neat freak. 7. My closet is color coordinated. 8. During an off week I love being on the lake to boat and jet ski. 9. I hate the ocean (you can’t see anything down there). 10. I listen to every type of music except techno (give me some words….) 11. I am addicted to working out. 12. I am huge East Carolina University fan (not a fan of UNC or Duke….) 13. My favorite color is purple. 14. I love Gas Town (Gastonia, N.C.) 15. I am a brand-new uncle to my niece. 16. Someday I am going to pound the drum at the Carolina Panthers game. 17. I credit my dad, aka Deuce, for getting me into golf. 18. We Here – that’s my motto.
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