When Sam Harrop first sat down in front of his piano to figure out how to convert pop songs into brain worms for golf fans, he never imagined it would lead to a putt-putt contest with a PGA Tour-quality player.
But after good-naturedly calling out Ben An’s stroke with a song set to the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” – with lyrics such as “Benny An, he putts like he has got glass eyes. Please, just get some tips from Larry Mize.” – then playing said tune on the baby grand in the lobby of An’s home club at Lake Nona near Orlando, the Korn Ferry Tour player responded with a friendly challenge on Twitter.
“I saw he was in town, precisely in Lake Nona, so I tweeted half-jokingly, we need to have a putting contest,” said An, who would break a six-year winless slump with a Korn Ferry Tour victory two weeks later, “and Sam came up with an idea to have a putt-putt match. And I won, by the way.”
For a self-described “golf nerd” such as Harrop who records his tunes at home in the south of England, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience despite the 3-and-1 loss at one of the Pirates Cove Adventure Golf locations in Orlando. And it’s all due to his clever golf lyrics in songs about PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LPGA players that led the Times of London to dub Harrop golf’s premier parodist.
“That’s completely nuts, the kind of thing that’s almost like a dream,” the 40-year-old Harrop said.
And it was a perfect illustration of how his songs have achieved must-see status for a die-hard contingency of Twitter-obsessed golf fans. Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen and plenty of other pros have been in Harrop’s lyrical crosshairs, and for many of the younger tour players, it’s a badge of honor to have Harrop include them in verse.
“I thought it was very funny,” the 30-year-old An – who has spent more than a decade bouncing around the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and recently rebranded DP World Tour – said of the song that made fun of his putting. “I knew it wasn’t personal, and everyone on my team thought it was funny. Even my wife did, too. It definitely is. You know you made it when he makes a song about you. And he only makes the songs to somewhat ‘nice’ guys who aren’t going to take it personally.”
DeChambeau and Mickelson might not feel the same after having been targets of parody, but the fans eat it up. Harrop has amassed a following into the tens of thousands on Twitter and Instagram, all eager for the next song. Even the pros are listening – and frequently responding. And while there have been other singers tackle golf in comedic fashion – think former PGA Tour player Peter Jacobsen and his group, Jake Trout and the Flounders – it’s Harrop’s uncanny social media ease and timing that have garnered so many views.
Not bad for a father of two young children in England who markets sheet music for a living.
“That’s honestly one of the best things about it,” Harrop said. “You have to realize, I came from basically being just a big golf fan, right, and a golf nerd just watching the golf every week. So going from that to having interactions with these players, with them either liking my videos or commenting on them or retweeting them, and these names flashing up saying something like ‘Nick Faldo just liked your video,’ it’s crazy. I just never really would have expected that.”
He knows his audience
Harrop is no novice when it comes to music, even though for most of his life it didn’t have anything to do with golf. He started piano lessons when he was 8 and also can play a mean cello, and he sang in choruses near home in England as a child. He studied music at the University of Southampton and played in bands and in bars throughout much of his 20s. He still is part of an acapella group in London that has been sidelined during COVID.
And he’s in no way new to social media. One of the bands in which he played keyboard, named RedBoxBlue, in 2008 became the first group to ever stream online gigs via Facebook. The band didn’t make it far, but that ingenuity is still evident in how Harrop approaches social media. He knows his audience, because really, he is a part of that same Twitter fan base that enjoys a fair amount of mostly lighthearted and entertaining snark.
“I sort of knew the small audience that I had would be receptive to those kinds of ‘in’ jokes, those little things that if you’re just a casual golf fan who just watches the majors, you probably wouldn’t understand a lot of it,” said Harrop, who used to write a golf betting blog. “There are always some niche references in there that I think only the real golf aficionados would appreciate.”
Things took off for Harrop in February of 2020 when he wrote “When Will Tony Finau Win Again,” set to the tune of REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” Finau was on a streak of not winning despite a run of close calls, but he got a kick out the song and retweeted at Harrop, asking for a remix if he ever managed to climb back into the winner’s circle. With more than 180,000 followers on Twitter, Finau’s retweet earned Harrop a following.
“The week after I did the song, Tony was interviewed on Sky Sports over here, and they asked him about the song,” Harrop said. “And he said something like, ‘Oh, I loved it, I was watching it with my uncle and we laughed the whole time.’ And I thought that was just really cool for him to be asked about the song and for him to respond about it so positively. That really kicked off the whole thing. It lent credibility to the reason I was doing the whole thing.”
Harrop lived up to his end of the bargain, rewriting his lyrics into “The Day That Tony Finau Won Again” after Finau’s victory in The Northern Trust on the PGA Tour in 2021.
After that early surge following Finau’s tweet, Harrop came up with songs about the DeChambeau/Koepka feud of 2021 that led to the Tour trying to calm down the man-spat – parody gold, it turned out. The lyrics were observant and sharp without ever diving into mean-spirited territory – and honestly, they were hilarious so long as you weren’t Bryson or Brooks.
His most recent song, “Growing the Game” set to America’s “Horse With No Name,” has been lauded by his fans – the song makes reference to players who have considered playing for a upstart Saudi-backed golf league and who frequently say they only want to grow the game internationally and aren’t in it for the money.
That song came shortly after Harrop briefly questioned Mickelson’s comments and plans to play for the proposed Saudi league – and he was added to a growing list of fans who were blocked on Twitter by the six-time major winner, though Harrop is quick to point out the song had been in development for weeks before he was blocked.
“I just put it on Twitter that as someone who basically grew up following Phil and being a big fan of his, that he keeps making comments now that make me question my allegiance,” Harrop said. “And apparently that was enough to get blocked. It seems like a lot of people have been blocked. I didn’t even tag him in my post, so it must be him or one of his team going through and searching his name and blocking anyone who posts anything even vaguely negative or challenging, which seems a bit extreme.”
A left-hander himself, Harrop had grown up as a major Mickelson fan. He grew interested in golf watching the European Tour and PGA Tour with his dad most weekends. The family would occasionally play a local pitch-and-putt, though full-size 18-hole rounds were rare. After not following the game as much in college, Harrop again became a fan and occasional player when teeing it up with roommates between musical gigs around London.
These days, it’s fair to say Harrop’s best swings come via piano and not on the golf course. He’s happy to make a few pars, and he’s thrilled that his Twitter notoriety has earned a few tee times at top-tier courses, such as the round at Lake Nona before he played the baby grand and sang about An. Playing with rental clubs on the home course to many Orlando-based Tour pros, Harrop lost more balls than he made pars, but he smiled his way around the course before capping the round with a tee-ball blast straight down the middle on the 18th hole.
“There used to be a time when I would get angry on the course, and now I accept that I will never really be very good,” Harrop said. “And that has lifted a burden, and I’m just out to hit a few good shots and maybe make a couple pars and enjoy my friends.”
So as a golfer, Harrop is a very good piano player. It sometimes takes weeks to develop his lyrics, while other times he feels a time crunch based on current events.
“The song kind of has to match the player or the narrative, if you like,” he said. “If I’m doing a song that’s just about a player, I’ll do a bit of research about their background, like what college they went to, any sort of big wins they have, that sort of thing. Trying to make it into a story, in a kind of way.
“But then if it’s more of a reactionary song, like Finau winning again or the Brooks and Bryson feud or the Saudi ‘Growing the Game’ one, its looking through articles about that sort of topic. (Golfweek columnist) Eamon Lynch, for example, I went through a couple of his articles when I was putting together that Saudi song and picked out a few highlights and things that he quotes. I make a short list of reference I want to get into the song and then just kind of find a way to tie them in.”
What’s next for Harrop remains further up in the air than any 9-iron he might ever hit. He has performed songs for the U.S. Golf Association and Sky Sports, and he was in Orlando to play the opening of the PGA Merchandise Show in January. He hopes to keep singing about golf, and there could be a new podcast or online video program with him commenting on golf from home – he’s open to ideas, and his enthusiasm for the game is as catching as one of his tunes.
“It’s all slightly pinch-yourself kind of stuff, really,” he said. “It’s almost become slightly surreal, because I’m just a guy with a normal job and I just have this sort of little hobby.”