DUBLIN, Ohio – As a kid growing up in Cincinnati, Will Grimmer used to go to the Memorial Tournament just to watch some of the world’s best golfers play.
For the past two days at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Grimmer was on the other side of the ropes, playing alongside some of those professional golfers, himself as a participant in the Memorial Tournament.
Grimmer didn’t play as well as he would have liked to; he missed the cut after shooting 75 in his first round and 77 in his second round for a total of 8-over-par. That didn’t dampen his spirits much, though, as he described his experience in the tournament as “a dream come true.”
“It’s been awesome,” Grimmer said after finishing his second round Friday. “Something I’ve dreamt of as a kid, ever since I’ve come up here, and just to have so much local support, people cheering me on. I obviously didn’t play my best over the last couple days, would have liked to have done a little bit better but just to feel so many people cheering me on, was just really, really special, and a moment I’m going to remember for a long, long time.”
Although he finished near the bottom of the leaderboard, Grimmer could still leave the tournament with some moments to be proud of; he had three birdies on Thursday, including his first-ever birdie on the par-3 12th hole, and two birdies on Friday.
What really made the tournament special for Grimmer, though, was having several of his Ohio State teammates and his family on hand to watch, as well as Ohio State fans who made sure to shout “O-H” his way.
“When you’re struggling a little bit and you’re kind of on your own, it’s easy to maybe get caught up in what’s going on, but there was no bad shot the last two days that ever got me too down because you look out and you see so many smiling faces that are cheering me on, rooting me on,” Grimmer said. “That meant the world to me.”
The Memorial Tournament capped off a busy week for Grimmer that began at the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships, where he completed his four-year Ohio State career as a member of a Buckeye team that finished 13th in the national competition. After four days of play in Arkansas, Grimmer had just two days back in Ohio to prepare for the Memorial.
Even so, the opportunity to play in the Memorial – which he received through a sponsor’s exemption – wasn’t one he was going to pass up.
“I don’t get too emotional, but that kind of moved me to some tears,” Grimmer said, recalling when he found out he would receive the exemption. “There’s still players that are playing here this week like Ernie (Els) and (Steve) Stricker and Tiger (Woods), Phil (Mickelson), that I came and watched when I was four or five years old. So to now think I’m playing against them here, it’s really, really cool. And to be right in the backyard of Ohio State after just graduating, it’s really, really special.”
Id like to thank @MemorialGolf & @jacknicklaus for a tremendous opportunity this week. What a great experience teeing it up on the @PGATOUR! The support from friends & family this week was phenomenal. I look forward to chasing my dream of professional golf in the years to come!— Will Grimmer (@grimmer12_will) June 1, 2019
This week wasn’t Grimmer’s first time playing Muirfield Village, a course built by golf legend and fellow Buckeye Jack Nicklaus; the Ohio State golf teams periodically get the opportunity to play the course, so Grimmer said he had already played it about 20 times. Playing the course in a professional tournament, however, is a different beast.
“I’ve gotten to play out here a lot, but definitely a much tougher test come Memorial week,” Grimmer said. “Greens are faster, rough’s thicker and a little more nerves on the line. So good experience, honestly, getting to play a course that I’ve gotten to play a lot and seeing how I fare against the best in the world.”
It wasn’t Grimmer’s first time playing in a professional tournament, either; he played in the U.S. Open in both 2014 and 2018, and will continue his busy schedule by attempting to make his third U.S. Open at the sectional qualifying tournament at Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Ohio, on Monday.
While he hasn’t much time to rest during the past week, he believes his experience playing in both the collegiate national championships and at the Memorial Tournament have helped prepare him for his shot to qualify for the Open once again.
“I could go practice back home right now and maybe be more ready, but going and playing the Blessings (Golf Club) down in Arkansas and then playing here, two incredibly tough courses with very demanding shot values into the greens and very fast greens ... I think going into Springfield Monday, it’s going to help me a lot,” Grimmer said. “And then if I can qualify, my game’s definitely going to be more prepared because of it.”
Grimmer is still competing as an amateur for now, and is set to play in the Arnold Palmer Cup – a competition that pits collegiate golfers from the United States against collegiate golfers from other nations – in June. If he doesn’t qualify for the U.S. Open, Grimmer will then head to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to participate in the Sunnehanna Amateur.
His eventual goal, though, is to play on the PGA Tour, and opportunities like that which he received this week have given him a taste of what it will take to reach golf’s highest level.
“I know it’s gonna be a long journey,” Grimmer said. “I know that I still have a lot of areas I still have to improve in my game to ultimately get to where I need to be, but it’s getting opportunities like this and gaining these experiences that make you better. Because you don’t know what it’s like until you experience it. You don’t know how to deal with the pressure, you don’t know how to deal with the tough rough, you don’t know how to deal with fast greens until you get in that environment and you go test yourself. So every opportunity I get, I’m gonna take advantage of and try to go show what I can do and just see where that takes me.”
Grimmer believes his four years at Ohio State have helped prepare him to deal with the adversity that he will undoubtedly face in his quest to make it to the top of his sport.
“I know that there have been times where I felt lost, whether that’s maybe academically, my golf game, whatever it may be or just personally,” Grimmer said. “Having to deal with that on my own, I know it’s made me mentally tougher and stronger, and it’s for weeks like this, when you are out here battling, being able to handle those nerves in tough situations, I think college has definitely made me tougher and more prepared because of it.”
It doesn’t hurt to have someone as influential in the sport as Nicklaus, who paved the way for him to play in the Memorial this week, in his corner.
“For him to reach out to me, to tweet at me, for us to have had some great conversations and have his support, that means the world to me, because when you’ve got a guy like that that’s willing to back you and reach out to you, life’s not too bad,” Grimmer said. “So he’s been great, and I’m so thankful for Jack, Barbara and the Nicklaus family for giving me this opportunity this week.”
He’ll also have the support of PGA Tour veteran Ryan Armour, the other Ohio State alumnus playing in this week’s tournament, who is impressed by what he’s seen from Grimmer.
“He had a hell of a run there at the end, to do what they did at regionals and nationals, and he’s got to be spent,” Armour said. “Coming off nationals, it’s emotional and it’s your final college tournament, so to come here and try and compete against us, it’s asking a lot.”
Armour made the cut for the weekend with a score of 2-under-par through two rounds, and will be paired with Tiger Woods for the third round of the tournament. Armour and Woods are scheduled to tee off at 10:35 a.m. Saturday.