Ben Garner : The Legend
We’ve known Ben since he joined the UW Golf Team in 1994. As an incoming freshman from Southern California, Ben knew three things for certain: 1) how to play competitive golf, 2) how to party, and 3) how to make friends and influence people everywhere. Fast forward 28 years, and Ben has continued to hone those skills and overcome every obstacle he faced. He’s still the same guy we knew and loved from college, but now it's clear he has the wisdom and perspective to match.
We call him ‘BGarnes’ or 'Gentle Ben', although our kids call him 'Uncle Ben’. He’s our go to guy in Hawaii, our first call to play a round of golf with, hell, he’s the only plus-handicap that I know who plays righty and putts lefty, and he’s still the most down to earth guy on the range or in the water. We were beyond excited to see him and a bit of his life story featured in Golfers Journal - Issue 17, as his story is modern day greek mythology, and best of all, it’s all true.
He’s our original Citizen of the Game, a founding member of team RADMOR, and arguably the best junior golfer (not named Tiger Woods) in Southern California (circa 1994).
Here's an excerpt from the Golfer's Journal article by Charlie Warzel. Enjoy ...
Ben Garner is hiding in plain sight. Sort of.
One of the perks of living on a giant mass of lava rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that gets 350 days of sunshine a year is that everyone is hiding in plain sight. It’s easy to blend in here; celebrities casually walk past you on the beach in boardshorts and old, stretched-out T-shirts. It’s a perfect place for Garner and his second life. Nobody has to know that the guy who is selling them a vacation home was once one of the best young golfers on the planet, or that the tanned and toned blond dude with a Bill and Ted SoCal affect who is paddling out has competed against Tiger Woods more than 75 times (and won a few, too).
It’s not exactly easy to find Garner. The 45-year-old real estate sales associate spends stretches up in the foothills of the Hualalai volcano in a vintage Airstream trailer that he affectionately calls “The Eagle’s Nest.” Up at the Nest there is a picnic table, a fire pit, a battered patch of Astroturf for rocketing purely struck 8-irons into the sunset, a lot of twinkling Christmas lights and, crucially, no cell service. If Garner goes unexpectedly dark—and he’s known to do that from time to time—people know to check the Nest, if they have been given the location.
But once you do find him, he’s an open book. Garner has a big, gregarious personality that is somehow both laid-back and intense. After what feels like 45 seconds of meeting in his driveway, I am sitting on a barstool in his kitchen, miraculously clutching a cold beer he’s placed in my hand. Before I can get out a notepad or tape recorder, he is a quarter of the way through explaining how, with no warning, his brain and body broke and sabotaged what friends, family, coaches and the entire golfing world expected would be a storybook career on the PGA Tour. This is minute two of our time together. What he’s telling me is, ultimately, a tragedy, which is hard to square with the way he’s telling it. He’s smiling and gesticulating grandly. Nothing sounds even remotely like complaining. He’s rattling off names like Tiger and Sergio—not as objects of fan obsession, but as characters in his story. It’s suddenly clear why I’ve traveled all this way.
Because after you’ve met Ben Garner, you start to see him everywhere. It’s not a perfect comparison, but there’s a Forrest Gump-ian quality to his story—at least in the golf world. He feels a little larger than life. Garner’s done things on a golf course and with a golf ball that few of us can ever dream of. He’s been the beneficiary of immense natural talent and work ethic as well as deep misfortune. (As a child, he was almost kidnapped not once, but twice.) He grew up with reporters calling his house and full-page photo spreads in his local newspaper. He’s straddled the bell-bottom-wearing, chain-smoking, stuffy traditionalism of the old game and the fit, powerful, lucrative and immensely cool version of the new game his famous childhood playing partner helped usher in. He’s been flown out to play courses like Cypress, and he frequently tees it up with (and absolutely crushes) billionaires and Fortune 500 CEOs. He’s been a quiet influence in the lives of Tour players as well as other pro athletes who’ve found golf as part of their second act. Turn on the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am most years and look hard enough and, yep, there’s Garner inside the ropes, on the bag for one of his best friends, surfing legend Kelly Slater. The guy is everywhere.
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