WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Walking off the Old White TPC course at the Greenbrier in the same group on Tuesday were the 33-year-old club pro from Hurricane and the 34-year-old PGA veteran. It wasn't by chance they were together, even though it was kind of by chance they met a few years ago.
But from that first meeting, Sleepy Hollow Golf Club pro Jimmy Harrison and two-time PGA Tour winner Charles Howell III have forged a strong friendship.
Harrison, who started at Sleepy Hollow in the bag room as a 15-year-old, met Howell the first time when he picked him up from the airport for a Special Olympics event at the club in Hurricane. A touring pro - Chi Chi Rodriguez and Mark O'Meara in previous years - would highlight the event, and that year, it was Howell, who won an individual and team NCAA golf championship at Oklahoma State in 2000.
"It's a full day and we sat there for 36 groups to come through and we just talked all day and hit shots," Howell said. "We had a lot in common from the start."
One of those common bonds was former DuPont High and NBA star Jason Williams. Harrison noticed Howell was wearing a shirt from Isleworth Country Club near Orlando, Fla. Harrison mentioned that Williams also lived there, and he also had visited.
"I called Jason on the phone and got them together," Harrison said. "I go down there about two times a year. We'll go down, play some golf and run into Charles."
The two will text each other during the year, with Harrison offering words of congratulations and support while Howell is on the PGA Tour. Harrison will get a chance to cheer him on in person this week, as Howell tees off for the first round of the Greenbrier Classic at 7:40 a.m. Thursday.
He'll start the tournament alongside Ken Duke and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. Harrison joined Howell in his practice round in a group that included 13-time West Virginia Amateur champ Pat Carter and Wes Short Jr.