GREENSBORO — He loves playing the game far too much to ever allow it feel like the drudgery of work.
And so Scott Harvey made the choice. Golf is his life. It is not his livelihood.
Golf connects the past with the future for this tall, lean, blue-eyed son of a legend. Harvey is present on a golf course — living in the moment, at peace and yet alive with the joy of what was and what will be.
His golf game has taken the 36-year-old Harvey to far-flung courses in faraway lands, rewarded his skill with trophies and gifts of precious memories.
And now this: Scott Harvey, the fine amateur golfer from Greensboro, will play the Masters this week.
PATH TO AUGUSTA
Harvey earned his place in the Masters field by winning the USGA’s Mid-Amateur Championship back in September.
He didn’t just win the national title in Bethlehem, Pa. He dominated a six-day tournament open to the nation’s best amateur golfers age 25 and older.
Harvey tied for the lowest score after two rounds of stroke play, then won six head-to-head matches. Only two of those matches went the distance.
The victory qualified him for a Masters invitation, but it was not a foregone conclusion.
Until the mail arrived Christmas Eve.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” Harvey said. “My wife went out to the mailbox and brought it in. There’s this piece of mail with the Augusta National logo on it, so we kind of knew what it was. It was a good moment.”
Kim Harvey’s smartphone video of her husband opening the envelope is now a family treasure.
Scott Harvey had been to the Masters twice before, but he needed a ticket to get in both times and he only saw practice rounds at Augusta National.
“It’s the greatest place on Earth. Just unbelievable,” he said. “… You can only dream about participating the in the event, and you never really think it’s going to happen. It’s pretty surreal.”
Surreal, maybe. But not out of reach for a player now No. 52 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, a player who has lost count of his amateur titles, a player who has won the last four Richard S. Tufts Awards from the Carolinas Golf Association honoring the player of the year in North and South Carolina.
“It’s one of those things in life you think you’re never going to do,” Harvey said. “Funny story: I told my wife about a month before the Mid-Am, ‘Surely, before I die, somebody will invite me to play Augusta. I just want to play there one time.’ Well, fast forward, and now I’ve played it a lot and I’m going to play in the Masters.”
Harvey played the storied course for the first time two days before Thanksgiving. He will have played 15 or 16 rounds there before the tournament begins on Thursday, when by tradition he will play in the same group as a former Masters champion.
But first comes three relaxed days to make memories.
“I’ll play Monday and Tuesday, and one of those days will be with Mr. Ben Crenshaw,” Harvey said. “That’s real exciting for me. My dad used to travel and play with Mr. Crenshaw a lot. It’ll be special for me to connect the generations.”
Crenshaw, 63, won the Masters twice among his 19 PGA Tour victories.
Next comes Wednesday’s par-3 contest, when Harvey’s friend and caddie Rocky Manning loses his job for one day.
“My son (Cameron) is 5 years old, and he’s going to caddie for me,” Harvey said. “It’s a family-oriented thing, and it will be really special for me.”
Harvey heads to the Masters with just one regret. His dad didn’t live to see it.
Hall of Fame golfer Bill Harvey, who died in the autumn of 2013, won more than 300 amateur titles during a legendary playing career. Along the way, he taught his son about golf and life.
Bill Harvey owned the old Sedgefield Driving Range, a stone’s throw from the country club. The range is gone now, the land bought by the state to straighten a dogleg of planned highway road.
Scott Harvey grew up there.
“I got off the school bus every day at the driving range,” Harvey said. “I’d hit balls and goof around all day out there. I picked up balls by hand every night. That was my job.
“My dad taught me everything. It’s been fun walking his footsteps. He played for his whole life and traveled the country and had a great career. He taught me everything about life and playing golf and how to act. Just everything. I learned so much from him and those days hanging around the driving range.”
It was at the range where young Scott first got an inkling about just how good a player his father was. Champion golfers the likes of Allen Doyle and Vinny Giles would drop by frequently.
“There were always people stopping by the driving range. Famous people,” Harvey said. “… Big-time people would stop by to say hey to dad. They would tell me, ‘We’re out here playing on tour, but your dad is the best.’ … So many times I’d watch him hit balls, and there’s a 150-yard sign out there made of aluminum. He’d hit the sign three out of five times. I could stand there for three weeks and not hit the thing.”
Bill Harvey never pushed his son to play golf. As a high school kid at Ragsdale, Scott played soccer, basketball, baseball and golf. He went on to play golf in college, first at West Florida and then at High Point.
His dad was always there for him, Harvey said, and to this day, the victories that mean the most to the son are the ones that allow his name to be inscribed on a trophy that already bears his father’s name.
Of all the titles, Harvey has a favorite, and it surprises people who don’t know him — the member-guest championship at Sedgefield. Harvey won it his first year as a club member, with his father as his guest.
“Half of Greensboro was out there watching, and I cried like a little baby,” Harvey said. “It was a very special moment for me. … My dad hadn’t played golf for five or six years. I had to talk him into playing. But we came out here and had just a great moment. I had one of my best rounds ever, playing with him as my partner.”
Harvey said he often feels his father’s spirit, and he has felt it at Augusta.
“I know he’s right there with me, right now, watching,” Harvey said. “He knows everything that’s going on. And he’s so proud.”
AMATEUR VS. PRO
Make no mistake: Harvey belongs at the Masters this week.
He’s the same age as the defending champion, Bubba Watson, a player he knew growing up. As a kid, Harvey would play golf during stays with his mother and step-father in Pensacola, Fla., at a course not far from Watson’s home in Bagdad.
“We could tell as 10-year-old kids he was going to make it,” Harvey said. “Bubba would hit a 2-iron into the green on a short par-4 when I would hit driver, (then) 9-iron.”
When they grew up, Watson chose a career in pro golf.
Harvey tried it, too. But he found mini-tour golf joyless and soul-crushing.
“I did it for two years. I had a little bit of success, too. But it wasn’t any fun,” Harvey said. “People are too serious. I like to go out on the golf course and talk, cut up and tell jokes. You get done, you go grab a beer and tell stories. They get done and they’re (ticked) off because they three-putt the last hole, so they want to go and hit balls on the range for two hours.”
So instead, Harvey started a business. He owns S&K Triad Properties, a real estate company that manages buildings and rental property.
“Fortunately, I can play a lot of golf with my job,” Harvey said. “A lot of it is just checking on properties and collecting rents, fixing stuff when it’s wrong. It gives me a lot of freedom to play. I try to practice four or five days a week to stay sharp.”
The job allows him to play in a dozen or more amateur tournaments each year. It also allows him to be home with his family more than the average pro golfer.
“Of course you dream about being on the PGA Tour, but amateur golf is so much fun,” Harvey said. “I’ve seen some good friends playing mini-tour golf, and they just don’t seem as happy as I am playing the game. If you could just turn pro and go immediately to the PGA Tour, that would be one thing. But that’s not how it works. And that’s not the lifestyle I want.”
Harvey has found balance in his life. And he still gets to play the Masters at least this one time, getting a glimpse at the pro lifestyle he decided was not for him.
His practice rounds at Augusta National have taught him what could happen.
“I’ve shot 5-under,” Harvey said, “and I’ve shot an 80. That’s the nature of that golf course.
“I don’t have any expectations because I’ve never played against that competition and I’ve never played in that environment. At the same time, I know what I’m capable of: I’m capable of playing some really good golf. And I’ve played good on that golf course.”
And he has enjoyed it. Because for Scott Harvey golf is life and not livelihood.