Home Course: William McGirt

By:Bob Gillespie


South Carolina's William McGirt
William McGirt

There’s a lot of money played for during the PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup Playoffs, with a $10 million payday after the Tour Championship in Atlanta. But for nerve-stretching drama, the best stories are the guys near the bottom of the standings, scraping to keep their seasons alive.

Case in point: Spartanburg’s William McGirt.

A 2001 Wofford College graduate, former mini-tour veteran is in his first season on the PGA Tour, making just 12 of 25 cuts. Yet when it looked like McGirt’s year was done, he found a way to keep it going.

Heading into the final regular-season event, the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., McGirt was one spot outside the FedEx Cup top 125. But he shot a second-round 64, his best score of 2011, tied for 52nd and finished at No. 125 – the final man to qualify for the playoffs.

At the Barclays, McGirt needed to get inside the FedEx Cup top 100 to advance, and he shot another 64 in his first round. Then, with two holes to play the final round and scoreboards down due to Hurricane Irene, his wife, Sarah, hand-signaled “101” at him from the gallery – his position, just outside the cutoff. McGirt birdied the 17th hole, tied for 24th, and at No. 96 again survived to play again.

“I seem to play best when my back is against the wall,” he said afterward.

His run ended at the Deutsche Bank Classic, where a tie for 42nd left him 83rd overall, while the top 70 moved on to the BMW Championship. Now McGirt has another goal: a top 125 finish on the PGA Tour’s money list, which earns exemption for 2012.

“I’m probably going to have to earn another $300,000-$400,000 to keep my card,” he told CBS after the Barclays. “But … it’s not the end of the world if I have to go back to play the Nationwide Tour next year. I also have Q-School to fall back on. … I’ve got four Fall Finish events (so) there’s plenty of opportunities left to lock up my card.”

Anyone want to bet against him?

Hometown: Fairmont, N.C. (lives in Spartanburg)

Bio: Attended Wofford College, earning a degree in business economics

Highlights: Tied for third at the 2010 Nationwide Tour Bogota Open, his best finish of the year while making 17 of 24 cuts; tied for second at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament (aka Q-school) to earn 2011 exempt status; 2001 Southern Conference individual champion.

Where to play: “When I was at Wofford, we played a lot at Spartanburg Country Club, and I love it. They did a restoration, but I actually liked it better before, I thought it was much better. Two of my favorites in Myrtle Beach are the Dunes Club and the Surf Club. The Country Club of Charleston is one of my all-time favorites; the wind determines how tough it is, but it can be easy when it blows 25 mph and tough at 10 mph, depending on the direction. At Hilton Head, I like both Berkeley Hall courses, and Long Cove is another good one. A hidden gem is Columbia Country Club; day in and day out it has some of the best greens in the state. Every time I’ve played there, they were perfect.”

Where to eat: “It’s hard to beat Wade’s in Spartanburg, just a meat-and-three place. You go in, get a hamburger steak and three veggies every time. I miss that when I’m on the road, it’s tough to eat well on the road. In Charleston, my wife loves the Kickin’ Chicken, and the Charleston Crab House is one of our favorites.”

What to do for fun: “My off time from golf, I spend resting. My wife and I love going to Charleston; it’s so pretty and there’s so much to do. It’s one of the coolest cities in the country.”

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