Local Golfer Heading to The Masters

 

Wesley Bryan has a unique advantage when it comes to the Masters Tournament.

Similar to Augusta residents before him, the first-year Masters participant can simply go home to his own bed after each round at Augusta National Golf Club.

“I’ll be able to do my own thing here at the house and cook me some steaks and get a good night’s rest in my own bed,” Bryan said.

Despite the comforts of his personal surroundings in his adopted hometown, Bryan’s routine will be anything but normal on Masters Week.

The Columbia native attended Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, S.C., and quickly realized his future was in golf.

He dabbled in baseball through middle school until golf took a firm hold, helped in large part by his father, a South Carolina teaching professional who runs George Bryan Golf Academy in Chapin, S.C. He also had the motivation of two talented siblings. His brother, George, became a three-time All-American at the University of South Carolina, and his sister, MC, played at College of Charleston.

After climbing the junior golf ranks within the state, he latched on at South Carolina and left his mark on the program in short order by claiming two individual victories.

“My dad got me and my brother into the game at a young age,” Bryan said. “From there it was one of those things. George and I were really competitive and enjoyed going at it together.”

As is the case for many aspiring professional golfers, the jump to the pro ranks didn’t come as easily. After turning pro in 2012, Wesley toiled on the mini tours along with George until he picked up an entirely different idea by watching ESPN one day.

On television was a video of young golfers performing trick shots.

“These kids put out a video that went pretty viral, but it didn’t look super difficult,” he said. “George and I went out to try it out and see if we could do it. We did it pretty quick. We built on that idea and posted to Instagram and YouTube. It started catching steam from there.”

The steam turned into a train ride. Their YouTube channel grew to almost 33,000 subscribers and potential sponsors started calling. They regularly put out trick-shot videos two and three years ago that produced six-figure viewership, and one sponsored by GoPro hit the 4 million mark.

“It was kind of weird,” Bryan said. “I didn’t think the stuff we were doing was super impressive, but the general public thought it was great because of how difficult it looked. From there we knew there was a market for it. We continued down that path.”

Bryan’s pro success came just as quickly as his trick-shot popularity.

The videos took a back seat when he caught fire through Q school and onto the Web.com Tour in 2016. He won three of his first 13 starts to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour, becoming just the 11th golfer to earn the three-win promotion. He also took home the Web.com Player of the Year award.

The ride didn’t stop there. In just his 18th PGA Tour start, Bryan won the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town in April 2017, becoming the first South Carolina born-and-bred golfer to win the Palmetto State’s premier PGA Tour event in its 49 years.

That victory secured Bryan’s place in the 2018 Masters. The timing of the win meant almost a full year to let the realization sink in.

“I didn’t think about it until somebody asked me about it in the press room (at Harbour Town),” he said. “I’ve just been trying to focus on getting my game ready for the next event. I’m not trying to look too far ahead. It definitely will sit in the back of your mind a little bit, but the objective is going about your business and getting better each day.”

Bryan’s Augusta experience goes beyond a recent move with his wife, Elizabeth, to the city. His father gave golf lessons to former Augusta National club chairman Hootie Johnson, and the connection led to a couple rounds at the course as a teenager.

His wife was accepted into physician’s assistant school in Augusta to set the move from Columbia in motion. Bryan has loved it ever since, claiming Augusta’s restaurants are “some of the best in the world here,” and having the comforts of practicing at Augusta University’s facility and at Forest Hills Golf Club.

He also has his pick of Taco Bell restaurants, including the one on Peach Orchard Road that he went to with Elizabeth at 1 a.m. after driving home from Hilton Head Island the day of his PGA Tour victory.

Bryan’s expectations as he approached Masters Week remained simple by taking it week by week, but he acknowledged the thought of playing in his first Masters could sit in the back of his mind. Regardless of his performance, he’ll have the chance to do something that once made an impact on him as a young fan.

“Billy Andrade once gave me a golf ball on the ninth tee box,” said Bryan, who attended the tournament almost every year as he grew up. “He came over and gave me a golf ball and said, ‘I hope you’re having fun out here watching golf.’”

Bryan said he hoped he can create an equally-memorable experience for a young patron in his first year at the Masters.

Article appears in the April 2018 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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