Jim Herman pulled off a surprise win at the Shell Houston Open on Sunday, shooting a 68 in the final round to escape Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson.
For the 38-year-old golfer, it’s his first PGA Tournament win and just the sixth time he’s ever finished in the top 10 at an event.
Best of all, the win earned him one of the last spots at the Masters this Thursday for his first ever appearance at Augusta.
Herman’s climb is an inspirational one, and one that might not have been possible without the help of Donald Trump.
After winning Houston, Herman explained his background a little bit in his postgame press conference. Herman spent several years in qualifying school (or “Q-school”) trying to earn a spot on the PGA Tour. After four years of playing mini-tours, Herman explained that he went into the golf business and eventually landed at Trump National as an assistant club pro (via ASAP Sports).
“[I] Started work at the Golf Village in Port St. Lucie in late ’04; then Mickey Gallagher, he’s a Houston grad, another tie to Houston, he became the head professional at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey,” Herman explained. “A friend of mine worked for him and he recommended me for the job. … I still had thoughts of going to Q-School every year, which I did, but no — missed [the Tour] in ’05, ’06 — finally got through second stage in ’07.”
He then explained how Trump gave him “a shot in the arm” to encourage him to keep trying to make the PGA Tour.
“But I worked in New Jersey for two years, worked at Trump National and had some really — met some really nice people, played a lot of golf and played with Mr. Trump, and he gave me a lot of confidence, you know. He’s seen a lot of players in Pro-Ams. Gave me a little shot in the arm. I was able to finally get through.”
Herman also said that Trump supported him financially, writing him a check while he was working there in 2006.
Herman has previously recalled the conversation with Trump, saying Trump told him (via Golf Digest), “Why are you folding shirts and giving lessons? Why aren’t you on the tour? I’ve played with tour players. You’re good enough.”
Shortly after Herman won in Houston, Trump, at a rally, explained his relationship with Herman, also sharing a similar story.
“Jim Herman, great guy, and had no money, but he had a lot of talent,” Trump said. “About five years ago, my pro, Mickey Gallagher said to me, ‘Mr. Trump, could you do me a favour? Could we play a round of golf? This guy is really talented, winning everything locally and doing really well, and all he does is give lessons.’ Because he gives lessons because he has no money.
“So, I played a round of golf with him. After about five holes, I said, ‘You should be on tour.’ … I said, ‘Look, here’s some money, go on tour.’ His wife thanked me, everybody thanked me. And he went on tour… and after a couple seasons, he won one tournament, then he got onto the main tour, and he came from nowhere, and today, he won the Shell Houston Open.”
Trump added, “I’m so proud of him. Isn’t that a great story?”
While Trump’s timeline doesn’t necessarily match up — Herman said he broke through to the PGA Tour in 2007 while Trump said their round of golf took place about five years ago — the rest of the details seem to match with Herman’s.
Now, Herman will play in his first Masters, which he admitted on Sunday has his agents scrambling to make travel plans because it was so unexpected.
“It’s going to be amazing, the next four days are going to just fly by.”