JT on the big stage

Wilson’s Griffin earns spot in Wells Fargo field in 1st PGA event

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In his eighth year as a professional, Wilson’s J.T. Griffin will compete in his first PGA Tour event this weekend.

Griffin, who turned pro in 2011, qualified for the Wells Fargo Championship at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Golf Club on Thursday through Sunday by firing a 4-under-par 32-34—66 and claiming third place in Monday’s qualifer over the par-70, 6, 977-yard Gaston Country Club layout in Gastonia.

Four berths were available in a field of more than 100. T.J. Vogel of Hollywood, Florida, and Carter Jenkins of Raleigh paced the field at 65. Vogel carded a 33-32—65, while Jenkins posted a 35-30.

Guillermo Pereira claimed the final spot by winning a five-way playoff after shooting a 32-35—67.

Missing the playoff by one shot was pro Daniel Claytor of Nashville. Claytor, the former Barton College NCAA Division II All-American, fashioned a 33-35—68.

Griffin’s round included six birdies and two bogeys.

His tee time Thursday is 2 p.m. — the next-to-last tee time.

“I feel good about it,” Griffin commented in a brief telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “I am looking forward to it and it’s nice that it’s near home.”

Griffin, a North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A individual champion at Fike High and an All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer at Georgia Tech, explained he normally focuses his efforts upon the Web.com Tour, reasoning a strong finish to the year on that tour is an easier route to the PGA Tour than attempting to do so in qualifiers. However, he pointed out the majority of the PGA Tour events award four berths in Monday outings.

Griffin, inducted into the Fike High Athletic Hall of Fame last fall, also assures a solid performance this weekend “could catapult my career and get me in more events. I could keep rolling from there.”

Now an Atlanta resident, Griffin is not the first Wilson golfer to play in a PGA Tour event. The late Grover Bullin did so on numerous occasions at Greensboro and Charlotte stops in the 1940s. Wilson Country Club’s Reid Hill competed in the MCI Classic (now the RBC Heritage) at Hilton Head, South Carolina, in 1992 and WCC’s Ben Skinner appeared once in the Greater Greensboro Open.

Of weekend expectations, Griffin responded: “The golf course is hard but I think that is good for me. I am looking forward to getting back on the tee and fighting — it will be a good test.

“I’ve got to drive the ball well. You have to tee off and kill it; it’s a beast. You can’t hide; you’ve got to play.”

Of weekend hopes, Griffin said: “I would like to be in a place Sunday where I can do some damage on the back nine.”