PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – “I thought I was done,” said Ben Griffin.
Just two years ago, at the age of 24, Griffin ended his life as a budding professional golfer. He tried it, trying to qualify for the PGA Tour and his minor league circuit, the Korn Ferry Tour, and couldn’t crack it.
So he felt it was time to move on with his life, to find a real job.
“I didn’t want to be a golfer anymore,” Griffin recalled Friday as he closed out the second round of his first Players Championship as the clubhouse leader at 6 under.
Yes, you read that right. Two years after giving up on his dream, Griffin temporarily has his PGA Tour card and is in contention to win through 36 holes in the Tour’s signature event.
After play was suspended Friday afternoon due to hazardous weather, Griffin was held to a two-shot lead. The leaders, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Adam Svensson, were 8 under, but still have to finish their second rounds on Friday morning.
In the spring of 2021, Griffin left professional golf behind, passed the accreditation tests and became a loan officer at CIMG Residential Mortgage in Chapel Hill, NC.
A true moment of fate changed that trajectory. So much for interest rates and mortgages.
Ben GriffinUSA TODAY Sports
Griffin met a man named Doug Sieg, managing partner of the Jersey City investment firm Lord Abbett. Griffin was paired for nine random holes with Sieg and his daughter, Taylor, in St. Simons Island, Georgia at Sea Island Golf Club. Sieg took his daughter there to play golf during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sieg was so impressed with Griffin after those nine holes that he offered to back him financially to help realize his PGA Tour dream. Griffin, having made up his mind, politely told Sieg that he was holding on to his desk job.
“If anything ever changes, let me know,” Sieg told Griffin.
A month later, Randy Myers, a Sea Island-based golf coach who works with Griffin and played football for Sieg at Penn State, told him, “Ben will be back, and he will be it’s great”
Then he spoke to Sieg Griffin.
“Ben told me, ‘I can’t see myself doing anything else in the world but playing on the PGA Tour, and that’s what I want to go for,”’ Sieg told The Post on Friday. “I said, ‘Why don’t you come (to New Jersey ) and we’ll meet.” He got in a car and got in, and I drove him out to Baltusrol. He was 3-over after three holes and birdied nine of the next 11 holes, and I said, “Okay, let’s do this.”
“I’ve never been around a guy who imagines himself so well and dreams so big.”
On Friday, Griffin led the players to 8-under and didn’t make a hole-in-one in his second round before double-bodging No. 18. However, when he left the fairway, you’d think he birdied the hole.
Sieg said: “The text he sent me after the round said, ‘You can’t believe how great this round was. I can’t wait for this weekend. At least I won’t be sleeping on my head. I’ll be ready to go.’
“Nothing bothers him. He has had such a great attitude”.
Sieg had an in-depth exchange with Griffin in October after the young golfer finished tied for third at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, leading the tournament with seven holes to play.
“He called me about twenty minutes later and said, ‘Every day I wake up and go to the golf course. I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” said Sieg. “His approach to freeing up time, I think, allowed him to really focus and understand what was important.”
The only thing that wiped the permanent smile off Griffin’s face Friday was when he recounted the people who helped make this all possible, starting with Sieg and including two other Street Angels, Jesse Ahearn and Mike Swann.
Griffin met Ahearn and Swann while playing at a Korn Ferry event in Springfield, Mo. Like Sieg, they were so moved that they wanted to help too. They paid their way into Q School, and damned if they didn’t win a PGA Tour card.
“They’re the only reason I’m playing golf right now,” Griffin said. “I will always have that perspective in my PGA Tour career and it will benefit me going forward.”
Griffin had tears in his eyes now.
When I relayed that poignant scene to Siega, I could feel his emotion over the phone.
“It’s incredibly rewarding,” Sieg said. “We have 750 people at Lord Abbett benefiting from seeing this incredible dream come true. He’s not afraid to dream big.”
Now, they dream big together.