Staffer Harold Varner III has been awarded the 2014 Northern Trust Open Exemption. Varner, who was the first player in East Carolina University (ECU) history to be named Conference USA Golfer of the Year in 2012, will be making his second-career start on the PGA TOUR, following a berth in the 2013 U.S. Open. Varner, 23, who currently has full status on the 2014 Web.com Tour, was selected from a pool of candidates to receive the exemption, which was established and sponsored by Northern Trust. The exemption was created to provide an opportunity for a top golfer who represents the advancement of diversity in golf and who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible to compete in the event. The 2014 Northern Trust Open returns to The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., February 12-16.
“I am so thrilled, honored and humbled to receive the Northern Trust Open Exemption, and I’d like to thank Northern Trust and the PGA TOUR for this incredible opportunity,” said Varner. “Not only will I be competing with the world’s best players in one of the game’s most historic tournaments on one of its most legendary golf courses, but I will also have the chance to use this exemption as a way to shine a light on the past, present and future for minorities in the sport I love and cherish. As a young African-American golfer, my goal is to play the sport at its highest level and make an impact on future generations of golfers, regardless of their skin color. The Northern Trust Open Exemption will greatly assist me in achieving that goal.”
Varner was a four-year letterman at Forestview High in Gastonia, N.C., where he led his team to a second-place finish while earning runner-up honors during the 2007 and 2008 North Carolina 3A State Championships. While attending ECU, Varner made the All-Conference USA team three times, while posting 18 top-10 finishes and setting the school record for lowest-career scoring average during his senior year. Varner also became the first gofer in ECU history to break 200 in a 54-hole tournament, while leading the team to their first-ever NCAA Finals appearance, where he finished 12th in 2011.
Varner, who qualified for the U.S. Open at Merion during his first full year as a professional, has also competed in 22 events on the eGolf Tour, where he posted 12 top-10 finishes, including two victories.
Varner currently plays the Classic XL Tour driver (9.5°), FL fairway (14°), Classic hybrid (18°), 588 Forged MB irons (4-9) and 588 RTX wedges (48°,52°,56°,60°). He also uses a Srixon Z-STAR XV golf ball with Spin Skin technology.