In only his second time qualifying to play in golf’s most prestigious tournament — The Masters at the famed August National Golf Club — pro golfer William McGirt took the world by surprise by briefly topping the leaderboard on Friday. After making the cut, the golf world is buzzing about the 37-year-old North Carolina native.
Here’s what you need to know about William McGirt:
1.Golf Coarses Through the McGirt Family’s Veins
Days after McGirt’s mother, school teacher Anne Marks McGirt, gave birth to William on June 21, 1979 in Lumberton, North Carolina, her sister came to the hospital and placed a pencil in the baby’s hand to form a proper golf grip, according to McGirt’s hometown newspaper, The Robesonian.
Bev Marks Capps — who played golf for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro — was also the first person to place a golf club in her nephew’s hands not long after he could walk.
Capps and the rest of the family honed their skills at Flag Tree Golf Course in their tiny hometown of Fairmont, NC. McGirt’s parents, Curtis and Anne McGirt, met playing golf and most of their dates were at the golf course.
When McGirt was a toddler, Capps asked her nephew if he wanted to be a golfer.
“As soon as he could talk, I’d ask him that,” she told The Robesonian. “When I did, he’d say, ‘Uh huh.’”
“He didn’t have much choice around our crowd. It’s just been a family sport.”
McGirt’s maternal grandfather, the late Bill Marks, encouraged the sport, and according to The Robesonian, “there was somebody at the golf course every day,” noting that the entire family played a role teaching McGirt everything about the sport, from the rules of the game to golf course etiquette.
2.His Hometown Is the Size of a Public High School in Most Cities
Fairmont is located in the southern portion of Robeson County, North Carolina’s largest county in land mass but rurally populated. The South Carolina border town has one elementary school, one middle school and one high school.
Population 2,659, according to the town’s website, Fairmont, like much of Robeson County, is tri-racial, comprised of African American, Native
American and Caucasian. Wikipedia states that some 30 percent of the town is Caucasian, 59 percent African-American and 10 percent Native American.
By the 1950s, Fairmont was one of the world’s leading tobacco markets, but as tobacco sales have diminished, many of its farmers have switched to corn, soybean and wheat crops.
According to city-data.com, the median age of a Fairmont resident is 44.5 years and, as of 2015, the median household income was $20,406, less than half the median income for the rest of the Tar Heel state, which was $47,830.
The average price of mobile homes in Fairmont — $177,375 — is greater than that of a detached home — $105,599, according to the website. Rent averages $401 per month.
In addition to McGirt, other well known Fairmont natives include CBS News Reporter Drew Levinson, Folk Artist Sam McMillan and NBA player Rod Griffin, who in 1977 was named ACC Player of the Year while at Wake Forest University. Griffin went on to play for the Denver Nuggets.
In addition to golf, McGirt was a standout high school baseball player and offered scholarships in both sports to various schools in North Carolina and South Carolina, but ultimately opted to play golf at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He and his wife, Sarah, met at Wofford and now live in Spartanburg wth their two children, four-year-old Mac, and Caroline, 1.
3.Tiger Woods’ Advice Helped McGirt on the Golf Course
Warming up on the practice green at the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, Tiger Woods overheard McGirt telling Woods’ caddy that he regretted not looking at the leaderboard down the stretch at the RBC Canadian Open a month earlier, PGA tour.com reported.
It was the first big tournament in which McGirt found himself in contention to win — he finished as the runner-up — and he told the caddy that he didn’t want to mess with his head by worrying about who was where on the leaderboard.
Standing a few feet away, Woods couldn’t believe what he’d just heard, according to the article.
Woods shouted “What?” and came over to McGirt and asked him to repeat the story.
“You’re an idiot,” McGirt remembers Woods saying,” according to PGA Tour.com. “Do you think Kobe (Bryant) doesn’t look at the scoreboard with a minute to go in the game? I said, ‘Point taken.’ ”
Woods offered McGirt other pointers, such as “how and why it helps to look at the leaderboard and how to handle being in contention late into the day on Sunday — and ended with Woods walking away but not before asking if McGirt was going to look at the leaderboard now.”
McGirt told PGA Tour.com that though he’d been around Woods many times, golf’s most famous current player had never before spoken to him.
“You might pass him in the locker room and not get so much as a hello sometimes,” McGirt said. “But for him to walk over and offer a little advice on how you need to know where you stand, it meant a lot to me that he would take the time to do that.”
The advice stuck with McGirt, who now always checks the leaderboard to see where he stands.
4.He won His First Tournament with Clubs Held Together By Electrical Tape
With old, broken golf clubs lying around, McGirt’s maternal grandfather, Bill Marks, made his grandson’s first set of clubs, The Robesonian reported.
With a 7-iron and a driver, Marks used electrical tape to cobble together a “makeshift grip,” apparently sturdy enough to allow the talented McGirt to begin winning tournaments by age 5.
In 1988, at the ripe age of eight, McGirt competed in the 14-and-under division of the Robeson County Junior Optimist Golf Championship at Pincecrest Country Club in nearby Lumberton. Despite being the youngest kid in the tournament, McGirt clinched the title, shooting a 94, with his closest competitor trailing by seven shots, according to the newspaper.
McGirt had his “first official golf lesson” at age 15, according to his official bio.
5.His Childhood Golf Course Is a ‘Club In The Country’
McGirt spent his youth on the fairways of the public Flag Tree Golf Course, a Porter Gibson-designed 18-hole course built in 1962.
Now known as Fairmont Golf Club, the semi-private course allows non-members to play a round of 18 holes for the price of $24 on weekdays and $27 on weekends. An annual family membership is $450, while a single person can join for $350.
According to the club’s website, the championship course is a par 72 with four sets of tees ranging from 4.700 yards to more than 6,400 yards.
Of his modest beginnings, McGirt has said that “I didn’t grow up at the country club, I grew up at the club in the country.”