He was nervous, and there was not much he could do, said George’s mother, Valerie Bryan.
The score on Bryan’s mind was not his own 6-under-par 136 that fell well within the 64-player 36-hole stroke play cut at +5, but that of his younger brother, Wesley. Three birdies in the final four holes at Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center on Tuesday gave Wesley Bryan an even-par 71 and a two-round 3-over 145 score, enough to make it through.
Both advanced to Wednesday’s first round of match play. Both let out a sigh of relief and shared pats on the back.
They are each other’s best friend, said their father, George Bryan III. But that wasn’t always the case.
THE BATTLING BRYAN BROTHERS
Separated in age by 26 months, George, 22, and Wesley, 20, grew up in Chapin, a short drive up Interstate 26 from Columbia, S.C. They are the sons of a PGA Teaching Professional and owner of George Bryan Golf Academy, so it was not surprising that they began playing so young.
They don’t remember not playing golf, I don’t think, said George the father, adding that the boys’ interests were not limited to golf. They were running around with every kind of stick, bat, club or ball you could imagine.
But it was hard to escape was the daily presence of golf.
We both played a bunch of sports growing up, but then we both started getting serious about 13, 14, 15, George said.
As members of the South Carolina Junior Golf Association, the Bryans came through the program about the time the Palmetto State began sprouting familiar names like Charles Warren, Lucas Glover, Jonathan Byrd and D.J. Trahan. George and Dustin Johnson played one year of golf together at Dutch Fork High School.
So when they went to compete or if they were just around Columbia, they were around a lot of good players, their father said. Our environment is kind of off the map, but it is on the golf radar, no doubt.
In 2005, George, then 17, enjoyed a banner year. He won five tournaments at various levels, and made match play at the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur championships. He was named the state’s Jay Haas Player of the Year.
Even better, he was on his way to play for the University of South Carolina.
George was a Gamecock since the day he was a pup, his father said.
There was never a question in my mind, said George, who will graduate in August with a degree in sport and entertainment management. During his career, he recorded 11 top-five finishes and his name was regularly attached to all-region and all-America teams.
Wesley was a different story. After a successful prep career similar to his older brother’s, Wesley had his mind set on Clemson University, the Gamecocks’ thorny rival, where Wesley’s grandfather and great grandfather attended.
I was the oddball in the family, Wesley said.
Their choice in colleges wasn’t the only way to differentiate the brothers.
On the course, Wesley is a scattershot driver with a precision short game from 100 yards; George is solid throughout his entire bag. Off the course, Wesley is the more outgoing, though he says George opens up with people when he feels comfortable.
The father recalls numerous instances when his sons would whack on each other pretty good. As a result of the spirited horsing around, George, on separate occasions, had an injured right ankle, surgery on his left knee and a splint on his right hand.
I’ll tell you, though, I got to be on a first name basis with our orthopedic surgeon … Evan Ekman, the father said.
The roughhousing came to a halt when George was a high school senior.
THE BROTHERLY BOND
Wesley never minded being in his older brother’s shadow, if he even acknowledged he was. So if his path continues to go in the same direction as George, it is of his own doing.
But when George went all-in for South Carolina, Wesley took notice.
I was a Clemson fan and wore orange all the way up until George signed with South Carolina, Wesley said. I started thinking about it because I was getting to the age where I had to start thinking about.
Wesley had a high school friend who was being recruited to play soccer. The friend’s choices had narrowed down to Clemson and South Carolina. Wesley and his friend wanted to attend the same university.
We started talking, started weighing the pros and cons then came to a decision without telling our parents, said Wesley, now a rising junior who tied for medalist honors in his fourth collegiate tournament and advanced to match play at both the U.S. Amateur Championship and U.S. Amateur Public Links in 2008.
So Wesley put away orange and white and opted for garnet and black — a decision that came as a complete shock to his parents.
We never saw that coming, the father said. I think George and [Gamecocks coach] Bill McDonald may have sold Wesley, but I don’t think we would tell you that.
The father believes Wesley’s decision may have altered the brothers’ relationship for the positive.
I didn’t think they were headed in that direction until Wesley decided he was going to South Carolina, the elder Bryan said. They were actually fighting brothers until then. It was real tough.
So on Tuesday, there was Wesley, struggling to get under the cut line. George, his score posted and looking forward to match play, decided to backtrack the front nine until he reached his brother on the par-4 eighth hole.
Wesley closed birdie-birdie, pumping his fist after sinking the uphill 5-footer at his closing hole. George, squatting off to the green’s side, applauded.
All right G, good job cheering him in, Valerie Bryan said. He needed some incentive.
For the moment, neither brother worried that they may face each other in match play. All that mattered was that they both advanced.
They would fight about who would win later.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.