Playing best golf of his life, Columbia’s Wesley Bryan gets hot at Harbour Town

Karl Puckett
·4 min read

“Clank.”

A small throng of fans erupted with cheers at that sound — the sound of Wesley Bryan’s golf ball hitting the pin after the Columbia native sank an improbable 53-foot putt for birdie on the 11th hole at the 53rd RBC Heritage Presented By Boeing tournament Friday morning.

“Fabulous,” said his father, George Bryan III, who was among the South Carolina golfer’s entourage, moments later as he walked to the next hole on Harbour Town Golf Links, pursuing his son on the adjacent fairway. “It’s what he does.”

Bryan elicited cheers during his second round when his game turned as hot as the pink pullover he wore for the chilly 7:44 start of his round with fellow South Carolinian Kevin Kisner and C.T. Pan of Taiwan.

Bryan started the round three under par.

When his 66 round was over, he was eight under, four shots behind leader Stewart Cink, who was 12 under after 17 holes mid-Friday afternoon.

Cameron Smith of Australia, who sports what one TV golf commentator described as a “magical mullet,” was in second place at 11 under.

Bryan’s round had some magical moments.

Not only did the 31-year-old make the long put on 11, he also holed out from 9 yards from the fairway on hole 17 for birdie.

And he eagled the second hole.

“He’s been playing the best golf of his life the past eight to 10 months,” said George Bryan III, a former professional golfer himself who now runs a golf academy in Columbia.

A family affair

As of Friday afternoon, golfers were still on the course in the midst of their second rounds, but Bryan’s stellar five-under round has him firmly in contention when play resumes Saturday and Sunday.

Half of the 132-player field was to be cut at the end of Friday’s play, with one under par the likely cutoff.

“Overall, doesn’t look like I’m going to be too far from the lead come day’s end, so just looking for a chance on the weekend,” Bryan said after he left the course. “That’s all you can ask for.”

Golfing is a family affair for the Bryans.

Older brother George IV was a three-time All-American at the University of South Carolina. Their sister, Mary Chandler Rainey, who was also on hand to cheer on Wesley Friday, played collegiate golf at the College of Charleston.

Their father played in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah and now runs George Bryan Golf Academy in Chapin.

He chased a dream of a professional career on and off for 15 years.

“And I didn’t make it so turned inward and committed to trying to build a business,” he said.

Numerous golfers who went through George Bryan Golf Academy have gone on to play college golf, but George says turning out great golfers isn’t his only goal.

“We like to get new players and new and young families into golf,” he says.

Growing up, Wesley was exposed to golf and a variety of golf teachers, but the father attributes his son’s success on and off the golf course to other factors.

“His mama is the one to credit — God and his mama,” George Bryan III said.

Valerie Bryan also was there to see her son’s phenomenal round.

“That was incredible,” she said after he finished on the 9th hole.

Valerie, a preschool special education teacher, is the only member of the family who does not play golf.

But she’s a big fan.

“It was harder to watch him in juniors and college golf,” she said as her son, Kisner and Pan waited for the green to clear before they teed off on 14. “For whatever reason, I feel more relaxed out here.”

When Wesley was a boy, the family stayed at a friend’s condominium two places down from the pro shop. During those family vacations he was able to play Harbour Town.

“He would let us come down, and I’ll be honest, we snuck out here way more often than we probably should,” Wesley Bryan said. “We would walk out to the 10th tee and just start playing holes as kids.”

A crowd favorite

Brothers Wesley and George IV are co-founders of a popular YouTube Channel Bryan Bros Golf, where they create trick-shot videos.

“It started as fun, but it really took off,” Valerie Bryan said.

Wesley Bryan attended Dutch Fork High School in Irmo and the University of South Carolina.

He won the RBC Heritage in 2017, his first and so far only PGA Tour victory. He also had three wins on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Friday, family and friends followed Bryan around the course, whooping it up whenever he hit a good shot.

Bryan said he relishes playing in front of crowds and missed it during the pandemic.

“Every single year I’ve come here,” he said, “just having all the family and friends and the support — and a little bit louder cheers for good shots, for putts made, on the first tee getting nice warm welcome — it feels a little better.”