How a case of the munchies led to a sponsorship for Heritage champion Wesley Bryan
Much has changed since Wesley Bryan became the first S.C. native to slip on the tartan jacket as RBC Heritage champion.
On March 13, Gov. Henry McMaster presented Bryan with the Order of the Palmetto, the state's highest civilian honor. The governor declared it Wesley Bryan Day in the state, and the Columbia native celebrated at the State House with his family and Heritage officials.
And in addition to pocketing the $1.17 million winner's share of the Heritage purse, Bryan snagged some fringe benefits.
His post-victory meal at Taco Bell with bride Elizabeth after leaving Hilton Head last April gained widespread attention and earned Bryan a deal with the fast-food chain. The Taco Bell logo appeared on his belt and Callaway golf balls.
Bryan returns to Hilton Head for this year's tournament a little more decorated and fresh off his first appearance at the Masters, an invitation earned with his Heritage victory. Given all that has transpired in recent years, including a 2016 season in which Bryan won three times on the Web.com Tour, one might forgive Bryan for adopting an air more befitting a PGA Tour breakout star.
That doesn't seem to have happened to Bryan, who described himself at Heritage media day in February as a "pretty simple guy" — as comfortable talking about food as he is his putting.
"Things are going on that completely stun me," said George Bryan, Wesley's father. "But I think Wesley is handling it with considerable maturity, and I'm proud of him. He's extremely humble."
Count Dad as one not surprised by his son's success.
Not that he would predict major triumphs for his son. But that's how the Bryans — Wesley, his fellow pro golfer brother, George IV, and sister and former College of Charleston golfer, Mary Chandler — grew up learning under George IIII, a PGA-teaching professional who operates George Bryan Golf Academy in Chapin.
"We not only talked about it, we set up play environments to practice the pursuit of dreams," the father said.
The 10-acre site included small greens and taught Wesley Bryan to play with imagination and shape shots around the property's tall pines.
The result is that Bryan is an old-school style of relying on feel and changing trajectory that served him well at tree-lined Harbour Town, his caddie, William Lanier, said after the Heritage victory.
Bryan was no stranger to the spotlight before Taco Bell and the governor came calling.
He and his brother produced a serious of trick shot videos as the Bryan Bros., grabbing the eye of GoPro and Callaway and landing a spot on the Golf Channel reality show, "Big Break."
Then, Bryan won three times on the Web.com Tour, where pros cut their teeth and try to earn a coveted PGA Tour card.
The stage finally caught Bryan on the closing holes at Harbour Town in 2017. Bryan admitted to a wave of nausea as he closed his first PGA Tour victory and secured a spot in the Masters.
His final round 67 to win by a shot over Luke Donald marked the fifth consecutive year the Heritage winner overcame at least a three-shot deficit on the final day.
Bryan grew up around the tournament, and his dad even played in the Heritage after winning a qualifier in 2004. He didn't know the history of S.C. natives in the event before last year but knew he had the game to compete..
“And just to be able to come out here and show it for four days and the last couple of holes is something you can only dream of, honestly,” Bryan said after his victory.
Bryan, an Augusta resident with plans to return to Columbia, didn't play a tour event for several weeks ahead of the Masters, his first major.
He's stayed loose on social media, posting a video of his attempt to shoot 59 at Bartram Trail Golf Club just outside of Augusta. In response to an inquiry from Golf Digest's Ashley Mayo, Bryan offered a list of Masters favorites to include ... Wesley Bryan.
Before the Masters, Bryan had missed the cut in his previous three events — the last at the Honda Classic in February.
"A work in progress," Bryan said at Heritage media day in February, as reported by The State newspaper. "The results aren't showing, but my game is better than my scores."