Glover salutes S.C. golf roots

by golfer on December 15, 2010

When Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot was looking for a PGA Tour “name” to grace his annual sponsors’ outing, he first asked 2010 Heritage winner Jim Furyk — who was defending his title at Tiger Woods’ Chevron World Challenge in California this past weekend. Then Wilmot went for five-time Heritage champion Davis Love III, only to run into another conflict.
Then, out of the blue, came a phone call. “Can I help you out?” 2009 U.S. Open champion and South Carolina native Lucas Glover asked.
So it was that the former Clemson All-American was at Harbour Town Golf Links on Monday to answer sponsors’ golf questions but mostly to talk up the Heritage. The tournament will be played in April without a title sponsor for the first time since its founding in 1969 after losing Verizon.
“(Glover) wanted to show his support,” Wilmot said. “He knows how important this tournament is to South Carolina, and to the PGA Tour.”
After Wilmot told about missing on Furyk and Love, Glover cracked: “I didn’t know I was the third choice.”
It’s hard to imagine a more fitting representative of the Tour or the state. Glover grew up in Greenville watching the Heritage on TV with his grandfather, former Clemson football player Dick Hendley, every year from age 5.
“I don’t think we ever came here, because we went to the Masters and this was the week after,” he said, “but I always remembered (TV shots of) the lighthouse at No. 18.” Glover also played in the Junior Heritage and the Players Amateur, both affiliated with the Heritage.
It wasn’t until he turned pro that Glover comprehended what the tournament means to South Carolina. “I didn’t really know growing up, but later I was like, this is a pretty big deal,” he said. “We get 140 of the best players in the world to come to our state every year. That’s pretty cool.
“Plus it’s our only pro sports event. I started realizing the economic impact, upwards of $90 million into our economy. We’re not a very rich state, so we can’t afford to lose that.”
Since his U.S. Open victory at New York’s Bethpage Black in 2009, Glover has become perhaps South Carolina’s most prominent PGA Tour player. That year he earned nearly $3.7 million, won the major-winners-only Grand Slam of Golf and played on the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team.
But 2010 was by comparison a disappointment. Glover finished 53rd on the money list with a bit more than $1.5 million, with his best finish a tie for third at the Players Championship. He was passed over for the Ryder Cup team.
“Going into my eighth year out here, your expectations are (that) you need to keep improving,” he said. “I didn’t play great in 2010, so going into 2011, I’ve got some goals in mind.
“I need to get up and down (to save pars) better, make some putts, and I didn’t drive the ball in 2010 like I usually do. I’ve got some good things in mind to work on.”
Jimmy Johnston, Glover’s agent, whose firm also represents two-time Heritage champion Boo Weekley and former Clemson players Jonathan Byrd and Charles Warren, cautions against making too much of Glover’s “disappointment.”
“Lucas had a very solid year,” Johnston said. “Coming off (2009), with everything going on, everything speeds up a little for you. I think he had to get used to that early in the year and didn’t play as well as he wanted.
“By the end of the year, he was back to focused on his game. I think over the next three-to-four years, you’re going to see unbelievable play by Lucas Glover.”
Wilmot, who told stories from Glover’s first years on Tour when he asked for (and got) sponsors’ exemptions, said the player has more than repaid those early “debts.” Johnston said that’s not just the case with his home-state event.
“This year, he went to Brandt Snedecker’s charity event to help flood victims in Nashville, no money, no nothing,” Johnston said. “Having the U.S. Open champ is a big thing. What he gives back, most don’t realize, and you don’t have to ask him more than once.”
Glover said the Heritage should survive its crisis if PGA Tour players have anything to do with it. “So many guys treat this as their first family week of year, bring the family, the kids, go to the beach, good restaurants,” he said. “Guys love the golf course, and I feel the guys will very upset if we lost it.”

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