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Pirates bond through PGA moment

Greenbrier Golf
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Harold Varner III looks at a putt on the first hole during the third round of the Military Tribute at The Greenbrier golf tournament in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Saturday, July 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)


The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

East Carolina men’s golf coach Andrew Sapp is the president of the Golf Coaches Association of America, and serving in that role put him in Avion, France, last week.

He was there for the Arnold Palmer Classic, which is a Ryder Cup-style event for college golfers, while current Pirate Blake Taylor and former ECU star Harold Varner III were both in a PGA field for The Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia.

Taylor held his own, shooting 1 over in two rounds as a first-time amateur in a professional event, and Varner was in contention all weekend before finishing in a tie for fifth place. It was the second top-10 this year for Varner, who played for the Pirates from 2008-12 under previous ECU coach Press McPhaul.

“Having both of them play was an exciting thing, and I was gutted that I was in France and couldn’t go up and watch,” Sapp said. “That would have been an awesome experience to watch Blake, but also to watch Harold play.”

McPhaul left the Pirates for N.C. State last June and was replaced by Sapp in July.

Varner, a Gastonia native, made national headlines Monday when he tweeted a photo of him mowing his parents’ lawn the morning after earning $247,470 for his top-five finish. He was a co-leader after the third round and during a news conference Saturday said that regardless of Sunday’s outcome, he was intent on his plans Monday to cut grass.

“He’s playing some great golf this summer and hopefully he can continue it,” Sapp said of Varner. “When tour players embrace their roots, whether it’s their hometown or their university where they played golf and went to school, it does nothing but help a program out.

“He is very visible on social media and is a very charismatic person. ... He is funny and fun to be around and a great guy, so he really is an incredible representative of the Pirates and our Pirate golf program.”

Taylor is aiming for a similar path after a valuable PGA experience in West Virginia.

ECU’s top golfer last year in terms of scoring average was Patrick Stephenson. Taylor ranked second, and both he and Stephenson are juniors this fall.

“We have a great culture here and our goal really now is to develop a winning culture,” said Sapp, who previously as coach at North Carolina led the Tar Heels to the NCAA Championship finals and at Michigan guided the Wolverines to third place in the 2009 NCAA event. “I’m looking forward to Year 2 and that’s because we know the ropes of the university and Greenville and the golf courses we play, but also we’ve gotten to know our players.

“We have a very young team and we won’t have any seniors, so it’s exciting to look at the next two years because the roster will be the same and we should see how much we can continue to improve.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.


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