Chi Chi Rodriquez once proclaimed that Jack Nicklaus became “a legend in his spare time” – a path the Bryan Brothers accidently discovered.
Well, “legend” might be a stretch, but ...
The Bryans, George IV and Wesley, are professional golfers who aspire to earn spots on the PGA Tour. In the meantime – their spare time – they have attained at least semi-rockstar status with their trick-short artistry that has gone viral on the Internet.
“Trick shots” is not exactly right. What the Bryans perform in their videos are real golf shots – in a different form. George, who calls himself the set-up guy, gets the ball to his brother in one way or another and Wesley does the rest.
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Watching them prompts the same question that an audience leaves a performance by Cirque du Soleil with: How did they do that?
Whether it’s George blasting from a sand bunker and Wesley sending the ball in flight on a 275-yard journey down the fairway, George chipping against a masonry stone and Wesley poised with his driver to rip the ricochet, or hitting stationary targets, the “wows” keep coming.
“What they are doing is incredible,” Happ Lathrop, executive director of the South Carolina Golf Association said. “I’ve been around this game a long time and never seen anything like it.”
The former University of South Carolina stars are getting attention all over the Internet. In fact, Rickie Fowler tweeted a link to one of their early videos and George said, “We didn’t know it would get so popular so fast.”
Watching other Internet videos prompted the idea. “We knew we could do better,” Wesley said.
Using an iPhone camera in the beginning, they have advanced to far more sophisticated recording equipment in their meteoric eight months – March to November. Their videos have been on YouTube, all the golf websites and ESPN. They have a website (bryanbrosgolf.com), a series on golfdigest.com and have been to Los Angeles for tapings. They have even worked their magic in glow-in-the-dark suits.
“Pretty amazing,” George said of the journey that started with posts to friends on Facebook and Instagram.
Yes, it is
First and foremost, the Bryans strive to make the PGA Tour. George is 26, Wesley 24, and their skills are real, not contrived for trick shots. Their dad, George Bryan III, is a long-time professional instructor who introduced them to the game at age 5, and many of their videos are shot at his golf academy in Chapin.
George made All-America for three years at USC and holds the school record for career scoring average. Wesley won all-star honors, too, ranks among the schools best in career scoring and played in multiple USGA championships.
“Great Gamecocks,” Carolina coach Bill McDonald said. “Little George has always been a tremendous competitor and worked extremely hard. He finished eagle-birdie to win us the NCAA West Regional his freshman year. He has a special knack.
“Wesley is an incredible wedge player. From 100 yards in, he’s the best. He has such wonderful hand-eye coordination, and that’s what makes those shots on the videos work so well.”
The videos reflect the times; golfers have always done some sort of challenging shots – anything from bouncing a ball on the face of a wedge to hitting from impossible lies. Now, everybody has a camera, the Internet provides an avenue to show those feats, and the Bryans have elevated the art with both involved.
“We remember the Tiger Woods ad” – Tiger bouncing a ball on his wedge before hitting it in mid-air – “and we’ve always been able to do that fooling around,” George said.
“Kids involved with golf early are like gym rats in basketball,” McDonald said. “They see things, they try things, they’re always experimenting.”
But these two-guy productions raise the trick-shot bar to a far higher level. First, George has to get the ball into his brother’s hitting zone, whether it’s by bouncing the ball off his wedge, hitting a “Phil Mickelson” flop back over his head or producing the perfect ricochet. Wesley then takes over with a baseball-like swing, and he says these “drives” are almost as long as his normal tee shots.
“We’re always thinking about possibilities, trying to see what works,” George said.
The usual result: another wow!
A major difference between the Bryans and other trick-shot performers is the “real-shots” aspect the brothers demonstrate. They use their regular clubs, and both agree the focus required in making the videos has enhanced their on-course skills.
“If I’m facing a tough tee shot in a tournament, I tell myself, ‘the ball’s right there on a tee; if I can hit one flipped in the air 275 yards, I can hit this shot,’ ” Wesley said. “I don’t lose much distance on the video shots; they’re almost as long as my drives” on the course.
George points out how his duties to “set up” his brother have sharpened his short game. “A lot of concentration,” he said. “It definitely helps with creativity. What we do in the videos helps me to ‘see’ possibilities on the course.”
Besides, the videos can relieve stress that goes with high-level professional golf.
“Pro golf was all I focused on for four years,” George said. “I would see guys I compete against in college like Russell Henley and Harris English winning (on the PGA Tour). Making it is tougher than I thought, and as I get older, I can see how (the videos) will help my concentration and focus. This keeps us fresh.”
Advancing to the major leagues of golf “is a challenge,” said Wesley, who lost in a playoff for the title in this summer’s NGA Tour event at the Members Club’s Woodcreek Course, “Not everyone gets on the Tour right away. It’s harder to make the (PGA Tour) than to stay on it.”
The patience required in career advancement helps in the video business, too. Not every experiment works and not every “trick” comes off correctly the first time. “Sometimes, neighbors find golf balls in their yards,” Wesley said, “but we’re having a blast, and (videos) have taken us places we’ve never thought of.”
Naturally, there are detracters who challenge the reality of the videos, and George would invite the disbelievers to watch them in person.
There’s no doubt what the reaction would be: more “wows.”