Rising talent Prescott Butler now has the game to match the name

AJGA

Rising talent Prescott Butler now has the game to match the name

Junior

Rising talent Prescott Butler now has the game to match the name

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the July 17, 2017, digital issue of Golfweek Magazine.

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The first couple of times Prescott Butler showed up at The Floridian for his lessons with instructor Claude Harmon III, he didn’t look the part. No belt. Mismatched socks. Wrinkled clothes.

“I told him, ‘Listen, if you ever show up again with your clothes not ironed, without a belt and not looking the right way, you can find somebody else to teach you,’ ” Harmon told him.

Butler listened, and four years later that kind of tough love from Harmon is paying off. Six months ago Butler was ranked 1,304 in the AJGA rankings. He’s now 16th. The 18-year-old Old Westbury, N.Y., native won his first AJGA event, nearly won his first AJGA invitational and most recently went 4-0 in the Wyndham Cup – all since April.

“If someone had told me a year ago that I would’ve done all this, it definitely would’ve been hard to believe,” Butler said.

Before Butler’s rise in the rankings, Harmon would ask where he wanted to play college golf. Butler responded by rattling off the names of top Division I teams. One problem: None of those teams were interested.

“I said to Prescott, ‘You’re going to have to go out and get some wins and put yourself on the radar for coaches,’” Harmon said.

Butler responded: How do I win?

This was all new to Butler. He started skating at age 3 and played competitive hockey until he was 13 years old, when his second concussion and a serious knee injury left him on crutches for nearly seven months. Butler gravitated toward his other passion: golf. He and his mom moved to Jupiter, Fla., three years ago while his father stayed in New York for his job.

When he started working with Harmon, Butler was a raw talent with a skinny frame. Last October, Butler committed to improving his fitness and strength.

“Claude told me I just wasn’t going to be able to get in the position that we wanted to get in with my swing without me getting a whole lot stronger,” Butler said.

Putting on 15 pounds of muscle, the newly 160-pound Butler picked up about 20 yards off the tee. More importantly, the added strength – along with a more neutral set of Cobra clubs built by Rickie Fowler’s clubmaker, Ben Schomin – allowed Butler to tighten his shot dispersion.

At that point, it was just a matter of confidence. Butler said a turning point for him was qualifying for the Jones Cup in February.

“It just kind of let me know who I should be playing against,” said Butler, who closed with a solid 74 to tie for 60th at Ocean Forest, despite suffering from mononucleosis.

“Then because of the mono I had a month and a half to sit on it and practice, and try my best to come back strong.”

Butler went 4-0 at the AJGA Wyndham Cup, an event he wasn’t even close to qualifying for a year ago. (AJGA)

Not even three months later, Butler hoisted the trophy at the Liberty National Junior. How do you win? Butler had figured it out. The floodgates opened.

On May 29, a Monday, Harmon got off a plane in Columbus, Ohio, the week of the Memorial and checked his phone: Butler had won his first AJGA event, in the Dominican Republic. A month later he tied for second at the Polo Golf Junior Classic before an impressive Wyndham Cup performance against some of the best juniors in the country.

“I think he always believed he belonged among the best, and he was waiting for the opportunity to show it,” said Butler’s friend, LSU commit Garrett Barber.

Now the college coaches are calling. Said Dustin Johnson to Harmon recently: “It’s funny how winning takes care of everything.”

“It’s hard to impress me given the caliber of players that I work with – I mean, Brooks (Koepka) just won a major for the first time – but I’m so impressed with what this kid’s done,” Harmon said. “He’s gone from nowhere to now some of the best college coaches in the country calling me, going ‘We’d really love to have this kid come to our school.’ ”

Harmon likes to give Butler a hard time about his name. More tough love.

“I used to always say to him,” Harmon recalled, “‘with an East Coast, blueblood name like that, you better be able to play when you tell people your name is Prescott Butler III.’”

Butler now has the game to match the name.

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