Should Best Friends Play Golf for Money?

Will Harris and Ryan Fanning

Will Harris and Ryan Fanning have been best friends since middle school where they met playing sports. They had the same group of friends growing up and were practically inseparable. They parted ways after their senior year; Ryan went to play lacrosse at Denver, and Will came to Ole Miss. The separation didn’t last long. After a career ending knee injury in Denver, Ryan transferred to Ole Miss and the two friends became inseparable once again.

They meet me early on Sunday afternoon before their round at the golf course. The weather was the best it’s been in weeks. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and the big Mississippi sky was the perfect shade of blue, dotted randomly with wispy little clouds. We sat on the patio outside the clubhouse, took in the view, and talked golf.
Harris grew up on the golf course. His father, a golf professional at the Dallas Country Club, taught him how to play. He played until he was 13, but quit playing because he says he “didn’t have the temperament.” He and Ryan claim that he’s not great at golf now, but that he’s working on it. “I didn’t pick up a club again until my senior year of high school, and really didn’t start playing again until January.” Now, he plays once or twice a week. Both men claim that he doesn’t have the ability that the son of a golf pro could have, but he’s working on it. His favorite golf memory is from March of this year, when he hit an eagle from 120 yards out during a money game. He had to leave the round early to go to class and the eagle was his last shot. His opponent was dismayed and complained about his well played departure from the game, but Will still thinks it’s one of best shots he’s ever hit and tries not to let the negativity of his opponent ruin the moment for him. He did learn a lesson from that ordeal. “You have to find good people to play with.” he says. “That’s important.”

Fanning went to a couple of golf camps when he was younger, but didn’t begin playing golf until his freshman year of college. His uncle played professionally, and he’s a bit disappointed that he didn’t make more of the opportunity to learn from him, but now that he’s got an affordable course and a student membership, he’s playing 30-40 rounds of golf per semester and he understands the more you play, the better you get.  Fanning told me he aced his first hole last Tuesday. He invited a young lady from one of his classes to accompany him on a round of golf. On the fourth hole of the Ole Miss Golf Course, a par three 170 yard hole, he hit what he knew would be a beautiful shot off the tee. “I hit it off the club and I was like, ‘that’s going to be pretty close.'” The shot was perfect. It bounced off the green and into the hole. He told his friend, “You don’t understand. That doesn’t happen ever–in my entire life.” Luckily, someone else was there to witness it.

In just talking to these guys for twenty minutes, you can tell that they have a profound respect for one another, and that’s what makes lasting friendships. I asked them as I took their picture if their round would be for fun or money. Ryan tells me that it’s actually their first money game. “Will you guys still be friends after today?” I ask them. They laugh. “We’ll see.” Will said. I have no doubt they’ll be just fine.


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