WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Born in Raleigh. Vacationed in Wilmington. Attended college in Winston-Salem. Lives in Charlotte. Webb Simpson’s life is a North Carolina success story. The 33-year-old is one of the top professional golfers in the world, having won five tournaments in his ten years on the PGA tour, including the 2012 U.S. Open and THE PLAYERS Championship in 2018, and more than $31 million in winnings. Although the Simpson family lived in Raleigh, Webb remembers first picking up the game of golf at The Country Club at Landfall when he was eight years old.
“My dad was in residential real estate for 40 years, and so when Landfall was beginning to develop, he thought it would be cool to build a house there,” Webb said. “Lots were cheap, so he and my Mom build a house and that’s when we started going down there for four to six weeks every summer. Our house was right on the putting green at the Dye Course, so I would just wander over there with my Dad and hang out. Once I started playing, I fell in love with it and couldn’t get enough of it.” Webb talks about two other people who helped nourish his appetite for the game at 2:15 of the podcast.
Webb says his father took it slow with golf in those early years. But as his son’s interest in the game and talent level started to grow, Sam Simpson started entering Webb in tournaments. He was getting better, and a teenage Webb didn’t mind the long hours it took to improve.
“I played basketball and tennis,” he remembers. “When I had to work on those sports, it felt like real work. But golf, hitting balls, putting, chipping and all that, seemed fun to me. So, I slowly quit playing those sports as I got into my teenage years.”
Those teenage years brought a lot of success. At Raleigh Broughton High School, Webb. He was a three-time all-conference golfer and won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 4A individual championship in 2004. Golfweek had him ranked as the #1 high school golfer in his senior season. Webb enrolled at Wake Forest, and joined the highly-touted Demon Deacons program, benefitting from the Arnold Palmer Scholarship.
Webb’s success continued at the college level. Victories came in college matches and at amateur tournaments. He represented the United States at the 2006 World Amateur Championship in South Africa, and the victorious 2007 Walker Cup team. Something else happened during those years as well. Webb majored in religion, and his faith began to grow in new ways.
“One day somebody said something to me that hit home, that ‘Hey, I know a lot about the president, but I don’t know him’,” Webb said. “That was kind of my state as a so-called Christian. I knew a lot about the Faith and a lot about Jesus, but I didn’t actually know Him personally as my Lord and Savior. When I went to Wake, I dove into trying to figure out what it was I always said I believed. I would say my faith took off my senior year of college, where I felt like I really wanted to pursue a relationship with Jesus. Not just claim Christianity as my religion, but actually claim the relationship with Jesus. That’s kind of the base for me, for everything. It affects my family. It affects my work. It affects life every day. Senior year was kind of the turning point for me in faith.”
Faith is a big part in the Webb Simpson Challenge, a two-day tournament for 9th-12th grade boys at Mid Pines and Pine Needles Golf Clubs in Southern Pines, NC. But it is more than just golf. The event’s website says it is “based on the verses of James 1:22-25. Our desire is for every golfer to examine this passage and understand the truth it holds for his life”. Featured speakers bring perspectives on life and faith, along with drives, chips and putts.
“The main message that we’ve kept throughout the years is trying to let these guys see that God and faith not only can be a part of their golf and their everyday lives, but it should be,” Webb says. “That it’s actually liberating to give your life to the Lord. It’s liberating to let him rule over your life. It’s liberating to live for someone else other than yourself. We’re just trying to communicate to them in a way that I wish I had been communicated to in high school.”
Wake Forest is also the place where Webb met his wife Dowd. Webb’s father actually met Dowd before his son did. Webb tells the story at 17:30 of the podcast.
“I didn’t try to date her early on because I really didn’t think I had a chance with her, so I played it cool,” Webb says with a chuckle. “I think me playing it cool made her curious about why I’m playing it cool and not pursuing her. It was by default. I didn’t know what I was doing. But it worked.”
Webb and Dowd have five children, welcoming their youngest, Eden Bee, in December 2018. With the golf career taking him across the country, and around the world, Webb says he could spend hours talking about how much Dowd means to his personal and professional lives.
“She doesn’t just allow me to leave but sends me out encouraging me with joy and rooting for me,” he said. “I’ve many times contemplated should I do this anymore because I’m gone from the kids so much. She’s given me the blessing of ‘this is where God’s called me right now, so I’m going to be faithful where I am right now. If God leads me somewhere else, we’ll address that when it comes. But, I couldn’t thank her enough for what she does. I’m just so thankful my kids have her to learn from and grow up trying to be like.”
It might surprise you to know that when Webb and his caddie Paul Tesori are on the golf course, their conversations at times stray away from the next shot. Paul is also a man of deep faith, and Webb says that’s why they work together so well. Their workplace just happens to be a lush fairway or smooth putting green.
“While I’m out there I’m thinking about my kids all the time,” he confesses. “I’m being Dad in the morning, having breakfast with them, go play for eight hours and come back. They know I went to work, and work is golf. But golf talk is non-existent at night at my house, unless it’s me and my wife. It’s a great transition for me to leave the course after a good or a bad day and come home to them.”
Webb says he gets the itch every April to get back to the coast, get out on the boat and hit the water. So don’t be surprised if you’re in a coffee shop in Wilmington, or at a restaurant in Wrightsville Beach, and the person next to you is a PGA Tour champion. You’ll know by the smile on Webb Simpson’s face. It will reflect the joy in his heart. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
You can hear my full interview with PGA Tour champion Webb Simpson by clicking on any of the links below.
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