It’s been three years since former University of South Carolina standout Wesley Bryan donned the tartan jacket, keeping the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing title in the Palmetto State for the first time in the tournament’s history.
But after an arduous several months marked by shoulder surgery and a pandemic shutdown, the Columbia native is ready to reset and make some more noise at Harbour Town Golf Links.
“To be back on the property where my first and only PGA Tour win came is great,” Bryan said. Wednesday. “I’m excited to lace up the shoes and go.”
Bryan experienced quite a Cinderella moment in 2017 on Hilton Head, but the magic has since faded for Bryan, at least for now. After missing the cut in four straight events at the beginning of the 2018-19 season, he withdrew from the RSM Classic in November and underwent shoulder surgery.
Between the surgery itself and the rehab afterwards, the entire recovery process lasted more than 15 months. In fact, Bryan didn’t touch a golf club for four of those months before he gradually increased his range of motion back to 100 percent. Just like a major league pitcher recovering from an injury, he came back on the Korn Ferry Tour with an initial rehab start in Panama. On the first day back, the nervousness of suddenly being back in competitive golf hit quickly.
“[My heart rate] clocked in at like I think 165 or something on the first tee,” Bryan recalled. “Just getting those nerves and juices flowing was amazing. That’s what I miss. That’s what everybody out here wants to do.”
Bryan struggled in that first event in Panama but turned things around in Mexico City, where he felt he started to put the pieces back together at a place where he was a former champion.
Bryan was all set to rejoin the tour in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed his return back to June. The extra time off could end up being a blessing.
“It gave my shoulder a little more time to heal, but it was just some odd circumstances that delayed it a little longer,” he said.
Like everyone else who found new hobbies or other ways to pass the time during the last three months, Bryan was no different. Several years back, the golf star and his older brother and fellow Gamecock golf alum, George Bryan IV, set up a YouTube channel named “Bryan Bros Golf” that features content of the golf-crazed family messing around and showing off on the links, including competitions, trick shots, and instructional videos. Other athletes have joined, including former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. The channel helped him keep busy and focus on his upcoming goals during the unexpected hiatus.
Now, it’s time for Bryan to tee it up for real again. This Heritage will be his first PGA Tour event in more than 18 months, and the 30-year-old is ready for the challenge of returning to the highest level of golf action in the country.
“I mean, health-wise we’re doing pretty good,” Bryan said. “I would say I got maybe 5 percent left to go on the shoulder, just as far as range of motion and flexibility and all that stuff. But the strength is there. It feels good. I wouldn’t say great, but it should be enough to complete four rounds. So that’s kind of the main goal.”
After this weekend, Bryan will travel to next week’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut, and then reassess his next moves, with the goal of playing well and playing enough to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs later in the year.
There’s something special about returning to the place where your career took off, especially as you start your comeback. And for Bryan, that’s Harbour Town.
Maybe he’ll create another Heritage tale that is shared down the Calibogue Sound for generations. But no matter how well he plays this week, it will be a memorable homecoming for the tourney’s hometown kid.
And who knows, maybe there’s still some more Sunday magic left.
Story by Wes Kerr
Wes Kerr is a graduate of Hilton Head Island High School and Davidson College. He has a passion for statistics and analytics.