Dustin Johnson’s competitive spirit doesn’t stop on the golf course. Before the main event at the RBC Heritage, the South Carolinian decided to have a little fun — and challenge the Tar Heel state’s Harold Varner III for ultimate Carolina bragging rights. But it was the Charlotte resident who had the last laugh Wednesday at Harbour Town Golf Links.
After a series of four events — flop shot, trivia, cornhole, and putting — Varner emerged victorious over Johnson in the second edition of the Carolinas Challenge at the Heritage Lawn beside the 18th tee. “HV3” earned a $10,000 charitable donation in his name for his exploits.
“It’s pretty cool that they did that,” Varner said. “The donation to our foundation and the Heritage Foundation was super cool. I know how far that money will go.”
Photos by Brady Sacha / LowcoGolf intern
The spirited competition reflected both golfers’ high-energy personalities as they dueled in front of a large gallery overlooking Calibogue Sound. As playful banter ensued between the talented duo, both golfers attempted to hit an RBC logo attached to the Heritage Lawn sign. Both Team RBC ambassadors were successful on the first try, but only Varner was able to nail the second and more difficult shot.
The two then engaged in a round of Carolina trivia, which Varner took again by correctly naming North Carolina as the state that Krispy Kreme Doughnuts was founded in. But it was DJ and his caddie who had the hot hands in the cornhole game to earn two points and tie the match.
The two golfers then settled it on a stage all too familiar — the putting green. Johnson and Varner took turns putting on a mini-golf style replica of Harbour Town’s iconic 18th hole. After both came close, it was Varner who sank the putt first to claim the title for North Carolina. With the victory, Varner earned a $10,000 charitable donation in his name with half of the proceeds going to the Heritage Classic Foundation and the other half to the HV3 Foundation, which provides financial assistance for kids to participate in youth sports. It may have been a friendly — and at times heated — competition, but at the end of the day, both golfers used the spotlight for a chance to give back to the local community.
“It was a lot of fun, RBC does a great job with this,” Johnson said. “They put on a great event, and they do a lot of stuff for the local charities. Webb [Simpson] and I did it [in 2019], and they really liked it so they asked me to do it again and I was happy to do it.”
It was a fun prelude to what should be a tremendous week of golf and a great opportunity for both Team RBC Ambassadors. Johnson knows how special it is to represent his home state in South Carolina’s marquee PGA Tour event, and he will be one of the favorites to don the tartan jacket at Sunday’s end and become just the second South Carolina native to notch a victory in Sea Pines.
“I’m feeling good,” Johnson said. “I feel like the game’s starting to come into some really good form. Decent week last week, obviously tough conditions, tough golf course. This course is completely different, but similar in that you gotta use all the clubs in the bag, you gotta hit a lot of different golf shots, you have to place the ball in the right spots. I’ve played the last five years, and I really enjoy it and get a lot of support that comes out to follow me, being in my home state, so it’s always a lot of fun.”
There’s also a lot to prove for Varner, who finished strong at Augusta with a 3-under final round 69 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 23rd after dropping out of contention with an 8-over 80 on moving day. He might not be in the Tar Heel state this week, but he felt right at home at Harbour Town last year with a 15-under T-2 finish.
“I played well last week, I’m a little tired so I’m going to take a nap, but I’ll be ready to go tomorrow for sure,” Varner said. “I’ve had some terrible showings and some really good showings, I don’t really like the golf course because it’s super-tight, but there’s a reward at the end of the week where you get to put on a plaid jacket, and being so close to home I think it would be super cool.”