Harris English earned his PGA Tour card at Q-school last December, but the 22-year-old University of Georgia standout is no stranger to winning in the pro ranks. As an amateur, English won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in July 2011. After representing the United States at the Walker Cup in September, he turned pro and almost won a second Nationwide event, the WNB Golf Classic, but lost in a playoff to Danny Lee.
The Thomasville, Ga., native, and true Southern gentleman is off to a solid start in his rookie year, finishing T67 at the Sony Open and T19 at the Humana Challenge, where we caught up with English. Look out for him this week at Torrey Pines, where long-hitters have an advantage. English hits his driver — known as “the beast” or “the monster” — long and straight.
You have a very even-keeled demeanor on and off the golf course, but what were your emotions like right after you survived the grueling six-round test at Q-School finals last month?
I was kind of on edge. I was really anxious the whole day, just kind of trying to speed up. I had to slow myself down. My caddie kept slowing me down. I was trying to get it over with. It was nerve-wracking. I'd never had that feeling before. Even the Nationwide event where I won, I was nervous but it wasn't this kind of nerves.
What were those feelings like?
One round, one shot can impact your whole year. It's hard not to think about it, but you try to calm yourself down and say, “It's just another golf shot, just try to pick your target and hit it.” Still, it's just different. I've never experienced this before, and I'd rather not come back to Q-school ever again [laughs].
Hunting is one of your favorite hobbies. How did you get into it and why do you like it?
Growing up in south Georgia, my granddad had a big farm way out in the country, had a big lake, so I did some duck hunting, and fishing and then deer hunting. And over the past probably five, six, seven years I've been really getting into it, and it's just a good pastime when you get away from golf — to just go out in the wild and be by yourself and think about a lot of stuff.
It feels like 90 percent of the Tour hunts or fishes.
Yeah, actually I was hitting balls beside David Toms this morning, and we were talking about some hunting. It seems like there's a lot of guys out here, especially from the South, who like to hunt. It's cool to have someone to talk to about it.
What's the biggest thing you've ever caught?
You mean like killed or something? I've killed two deer in my life, both bucks. A couple years ago I killed a big 11-point buck, which was pretty cool. You get nervous kind of like you do in golf. Your heart starts beating fast and you get the shakes a little bit. But it's cool because you kind of sit there for a couple minutes and then finally you catch one at the right time.
Do you keep the head and mount it?
It's in my room now in Sea Island.
Speaking of Sea Island, you live in Chris Kirk’s condo with some other golfers you know from college.
Yeah, it’s me, Hudson Swafford and Gator Todd, who went to Alabama. [Swafford and Todd will play on the Nationwide Tour this year.] I always knew I was going to move to Sea Island, but I didn't know I was going to move into his place. Chris was buying a house and moving out of his condo and he had three bedrooms and was looking for renters, so it just worked out.
And am I right that you and Hudson are dating roommates, too?
That’s convenient. Tell us about that.
We're obviously doing different stuff right now. But we used to just pile up in the same car and go to their house in college. Everyone used to make fun of us in college, but it was fun.
I hear you’re pretty good at Jeopardy. Have you always been a trivia guy?
When I was growing up we'd just watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy while we were eating dinner. I was always a little bit of a Wheel of Fortune fan, but Jeopardy was always my favorite. I loved rattling off answers. I usually don't get them right, but I love trivia. It was always my favorite game show growing up. Even now I'll try to find it on and compete with some of my roommates.
What's your best category?
Probably sports. I’m pretty good at that. A lot of the stuff you learn in high school and college finally comes out in Jeopardy. You can finally show off some of your knowledge, but you can't do it elsewhere.
I thought you majored in golf. You mean you actually went to class when you were in college?
Yeah, we had to.
Why do you call your pitching wedge Michael Irvin?
It’s Michael Irvin because the club is 47-degrees and that was the number he wore at University of Miami. My caddie Joe is good with some trivia, too, and we talk about random stuff and connect them to years and numbers.
We always joke around about stuff like that. It's kind of boring calling a pitching wedge a pitching wedge all the time, so we call it Michael Irvin and no one else knows what we're talking about. It's funny to see some looks on some guys' faces, fixing it up a little bit and having some fun.
Do any of your other clubs have names?
My 5-iron is Brett Favre-ron or just Brett. It should be the 4-iron, but that’d be too easy.
Have you had any “Wow, I’m on the PGA Tour!” moments yet?
On the range today, I was hitting beside David Toms and then Phil [Mickelson] was beside him, and all of a sudden Bill Clinton walked up. You see all these guys on TV and stuff, but when you're hitting balls beside them or hanging out with them and talking to them, it's pretty cool. All these guys are awesome and been very nice to me, and I'm just glad to be out here. I’m just kind of living the dream, taking it day by day. This really just happened so fast. I haven't had to stop and think about what's going on.
What's the best advice you've gotten from a veteran out here?
I played with Johnson Wagner in Charlotte a couple weeks ago before the season, and he's been really cool to me. I've been playing with Johnson and the past couple weeks I've had some trouble closing out some rounds, like I had it going deep the first day and finished 3-under. Then finally yesterday I finished it out [English shot a 10-under 62 in the second round of the Humana Challenge] and he texted me after the round, “Well, you closed it out, there you go, it's not that hard.” It's just good to know those guys actually care and are actually trying to help me out.
Your roommate on the road so far has been Brian Harman, another former UGA teammate who got through Q-school last December. He told me that he’s been trying to copy your cool demeanor. Are you really as calm as you look out there?
You definitely get fired up inside. I mean, it might show a little differently. I try to keep a calm demeanor on the outside, but I definitely get fired up on the inside. Freddie Couples is one of my idols. I'm sure he does the same thing. He looks so calm on the outside, but I'm sure he's pretty fired up.
What do you think of proposed changes to Q-School, especially since you just went through the old process and it worked okay for you?
I can see it working both ways. I haven’t been [out here] long enough to know. It’s just a huge change for what reason? I guess for the sponsors, that's how these things work, right? It seemed like [the tour] hasn't really gotten a good sense of what [the players] want. I think it could be a lot easier than how they’re making it, but I'm sure they want to do and will do the most fair thing possible. It doesn’t seem like there’s been a problem, but the veterans have been at this for a while and the PAC [players advisory council] members will make the right decision.