Harold Varner III

By R.J. Smiley







Who among these golfers is currently ranked # 39 in the World Golf Rankings, ahead of the other three: Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Harold Varner III or Phil Mickelson?

If you picked HV-3, you are a very astute golf fan. 

I have to say that I have been a HV-3 fan for years.  I love his game.  Simple swing!  He never gets too high when he plays well.  He never gets down when the golf gods seem to turn against him.

When I see Harold Varner III on TV (not hitting a golf ball) he reminds me of the ugly puppy in the litter.  The runt.  (My dad breed hunting dogs so I saw a lot of litters of puppies.)  I learned that people seem to love the runt of a litter, but they never expect him to achieve much success.  Many times, I witnessed that the runt becomes successful because he or she has to work harder to achieve any measure of success.  Success as a hunting dog or to win an AKC dog show. 

If 100 artists were commissioned to draw a picture of a champion golfer, not one of the artists depictions would resemble Varner.  HV-3 has the look of a junk yard dog and a competitive attitude to match.  He is not worried about style points – HV-3 plays golf to win!

The mighty mite, long hitter with a compact swing, has already earned the respect and admiration of fellow professional golfers Worldwide.  In the recent PGA Championship, there were many story lines and unlikely contenders near the top on Sunday.  But it seemed that every time Varner was shown hitting a shot the announcer said, “Varner has proven he is a really good player…. and a really nice guy.  His fellow pros love him.”  Not bad for the ugly runt in the litter.

After winning in Saudi Arabia, finishing 6th at the Player’s, the fine showing at the Masters golf fans have started to take notice. The T-2 finish at Harbor Town was the exclamation point.

At the Tulsa edition of the PGA Championship Varner was never really a factor.  With rounds of 71, 71, 72 and 72 his finish was more than respectable with many of the World’s best players watching Saturday and Sunday on TV.

A wise and very practical man often told me: “When they start making jokes about you – you are gaining popularity.” 

These are a few of the Harold Varner III one-liners:

  • Are those ‘elevator shoes’ Harold Varner is wearing when he plays golf?
  • Do you think Michael Jordan knows that Harold Varner III is wearing his Nike Air Jordan golf shoes?
  • Harold Varner III is becoming the black man’s version of Ian Woosnan?
  • Talk about golf’s “odd couple”, Bubba Watson and Harold Varner III team in New Orleans.

The ah-ha moment for this writer came when Varner made the 92’ putt to win the Saudi Invitational.  He was greeted immediately by a smiling Tommy Fleetwood who seemed as happy as Varner.  Then the camera swung to Bubba Watson who had eagled the 18th himself to take a one-shot lead atop the leaderboard.  Watson was running down to the green to congratulate HV-3, his good friend who had just beaten him by one shot to win the championship.

Harold Varner III is not a typical character on the top shelf of the World Rankings.  He played collegiate golf at East Carolina University, not exactly a sure steppingstone to big time golf.  He turned pro in 2012 and qualified for the US Open in 2013 but missed the cut.  Varner finished 30th on the money list on the web.com TOUR in 2014 and secured the 25 and last guaranteed spot to earn his PGA TOUR card in 2015.

HV-3 shocked the golf world in 2016 when he won the Australian PGA Championship.  Varner and Hale Irwin (1978) are the only two Americans to win the Australian Championship.

The fans of major championships got their first look at Varner in May of 2019 at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black where he was paired with Brooks Koepka in the final group on Sunday.  HV-3 showed he was not quite ready for prime time shooting 81.

For the short black kid from East Carolina University, 2022 has become the year where HV-3 has proven that he is ready to compete with his bigger and seemingly stronger litter mates.  He has earned over $2 million thus far in 2022 without a PGA TOUR win.  He has also secured several lucrative endorsement deals. 

From this writer’s perspective, the future is extremely bright for HV-3, the runt in the litter.