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After stint as a loan officer, Ben Griffin has found a home on the PGA Tour

AUSTIN, Texas — Ben Griffin still remembers the adrenaline rush he’d get after a good day on the job.

That’s understandable because the 26-year-old North Carolinian will be among 64 of the world’s best golfers competing for a $3.6 million top prize at this week’s World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play event at Austin Country Club.

But this deliberate, highly driven person was talking about his previous job.

Griffin, you see, until over a year ago was a loan officer for the CIMG Residential Mortgage business in his home town of Chapel Hill.

That was how he paid his bills after a rough start on the Korn Ferry Tour.

“Yeah, my biggest thrill was locking in a rate on a house for someone,” Griffin said from Georgia before catching a Monday night flight to Texas. “We’d get the (interest) rates posted at 11 a.m. each day from the banks in North Carolina. If I could find a rate that would come down an eighth of a percent from the day before from what I’d told the customer, well, that’s the most adrenaline you’d get.”

Griffin has traded that high for competing as a full-fledged PGA Tour card member. But first he gratefully accepted the sponsorships from two Missouri backers and CEO Doug Sieg of the Lord Abbett investment management firm to sign up for and advance out of Q-school and then finished second three times on Korn Ferry last season.

All in all, he’s proud of the two top-10 finishes he’s made in his 19 PGA events since securing his card over the business world of calculating mortgage points and refinancing homes that he left.

“I’d go from a cubicle by myself, and my new desk was the first tee at the Players Championship with 5,000 people watching,” Griffin said. “That’s where the perspective side comes in. I have it a lot better now. But I knew all along I was good enough to play against the best players in the world. I did in junior golf and had a relatively successful college career.”

On Tour, but not quite yet living Tour life

He’s gone from refinancing homes to making a home for himself on the PGA Tour. Sort of.

Single and frugal to a fault, he hasn’t sought to lower his own home rates because, well, he hasn’t sprung for a home yet even though he’s banked $1.7 million so far. Hey, we said he’s frugal.

He’ll stay in his $1,000-a-month apartment in St. Simons Island, Georgia, for now to build up his savings. He’s going to drive the formerly leased, silver C300 Mercedes-Benz with 90,000 miles “until it dies.” He stays at the cheapest hotels on the road and loves the courtesy cars the PGA Tour stops provide.

“I definitely want to win because winning takes care of a lot from a job security standpoint,” he said. “But I know where I came from. I’m so blessed to be playing.”

While he’s yet to win as a rookie, he finished third at Bermuda, a very respectable 14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and was in the final group on Saturday at the Players Championship. He’s meteorically risen to No. 77 in the world and No. 37 in the FedEx Cup standings and openly talks about cracking the top 50 and qualifying for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should have won at Bermuda, but I didn’t get it done,” he said. “On Saturday at the Players, I had nine putts inside 15 feet I missed that just broke on the edge. If half of those go down, I’m right there. I’ve got a lot more left in the tank. I can consistently move up 20, 30 spots if I do the right thing. I’m not the flashiest golfer, but I’m a gamer and a grinder. ”

Priorities: ‘I was golf, golf, golf.’

But a win is coming. Make no doubt.

Griffin is consumed with winning. He’s largely self-taught and picked up the game with all those long summer days when he was dropped off at first daylight at the Chapel Hill Country Club and picked up at dark. “I was golf, golf, golf. If I wasn’t playing golf, I was looking for golf balls.”

But that speaks to his independence.

This is a confident young man who was booking his own travel to tournaments at age 15 and staying in hotels alone at 16 even though he knew it was illegal. As a golfer, he’s used to being around older people at country clubs and has taken advantage of that, picking minds right and left.

He’s incredibly smart as one would expect of someone with a degree in economics from the University of North Carolina, where he was a two-time honorable mention All-American. Heck, hardly a day goes by on Tour when a fellow golfer doesn’t hit him up for some financial advice.

Griffin’s a good one to ask. He was sharp enough to leave the game of golf after struggling to make any money and tiring of that tough financial pinch.

But he never thought his career was history.

“Not at all,” he said. “It was more complete burnout. I had three years of zero or negative income. I was 24 going on 25 and relying on others and said I can’t do that. I want to do things on my own. I hated it. I knew I had to get away from golf.”

So he was a property manager for his dad in the residential real estate world before becoming a loan officer like his mother. And business was good. He was thriving, refinancing client’s mortgages that he could work down to 2.75% on 30-year fixed contracts in the days before interest rates have soared into the 7s.

“Re-fi’s were the hot thing on the market,” said Griffin, who was checking out spreadsheets for up to 12 hours a day.

But he knew he’d get back to golf because he had talent and deep down a lot of confidence in himself. Still does, even in this star-studded event where he’s in a group with Tyrrell Hatton, the 16th ranked golfer in the world.

Doesn’t have the name, but does he have the game?

“I’ve played golf my whole life,” Griffin said. “I know Scottie Scheffler, played against him. We’re about the same age. It doesn’t surprise me to see how his groove has taken off, and I know if I keep doing the right things, I can easily catch up to him, too. … I make a ton of putts and I think anyone would say they probably wish they could putt it like me.”

Griffin actually played a round at ACC last fall during a rare week off when he joined his girlfriend in Austin for her friend’s birthday gathering. He lit up the course with a round in the mid-60s. He loves the course and the match-play format.

“I kind of snuck in the field with some help from (those ineligible) golfers who went to LIV,” Griffin said. “I only have to beat seven people (in match play) where in a normal week I’d have to beat 155. I’ll play here, then drive to San Antonio for that tournament and then maybe have a tee time at the Masters.

“If I get out of my group and win a (playoff) match, I’d make the final eight. I might jump from 77th to the top 50, and I’d have a good chance.”

He’s a remarkable putter and can adeptly scramble around the green. He is straight enough to give him good approach shots.

“I’m not afraid to take on someone who is a very high-caliber player,” he said.

He’s not a particularly goal-oriented person, but he’s on the fast track. He never splurges and won’t even if he wins.

“I don’t want to buy nice things. I don’t care about watches. Maybe I’d get a new car, but then I’d need a garage to put it in,” he cracked. “But if I won, I’d put it right in my bank account, FDIC-insured hopefully.”

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