This year, more than ever, we’ve needed something to raise a smile and bring a little light-heartedness to our lives. And for those who love golf and enjoy experiencing a talented musician in full flow, Sam Harrop has been provided some welcome comic relief with his golf-themed parody songs, recorded from the cosy surroundings of his living room in southern England.
My latest song doesn't target a specific player. But a few of my favourite storylines 🐜 around the FedExCup. With credit, of course, to Green Day.@PGATOUR 👋
— Sam Harrop (@sam_golf) August 18, 2020
Harrop is not new to the game of posting musical videos online, but until February of this year, none of the 50-odd songs on his YouTube page had added a golf twist to the covers of popular hits. Sam’s decision to combine his twin passions of golf and music is somewhat mysterious, even to the man himself.
“It’s hard to pin down why I decided to do it,” Harrop admits.
But it seems that we have a British Christmas commercial, combined with Tony Finau’s loss to Webb Simpson in Phoenix earlier this year, to thank for Sam’s move into the pretty much untapped territory of golf parodies.
“I must have been listening to the song 'Can’t Fight This Feeling' (by REO Speedwagon). It was used in a Christmas advert over here in the UK, so maybe it was still in my subconscious,” Harrop says. “I’ve dabbled with songwriting myself, so I sometimes get ideas in my head just randomly. One of these ideas came to me, to the tune of 'Can’t Fight This Feeling', and it was ‘When Will Tony Finau Win Again?’”
Within a few hours of the song being posted, Finau himself tweeted his approval, and in a week the video had over 200,000 views on Twitter. Nobody was more surprised by the reaction than Harrop.
“I thought I’d probably get a few likes from my followers who are into golf on Twitter, and possibly, maybe it’d go as far as Tony Finau himself seeing it," Harrop explains, "but I didn’t think that he’d necessarily like it or comment on it, because he could have taken offence.”
In fact, quite the opposite happened. In Sam’s words, “It went astronomical very quickly.” Perhaps more by luck than design, Sam had picked out probably the nicest guy on the PGA Tour at which to poke fun, and Finau’s online interaction gave the song an unexpected boost.
Of course, such immediate success dictated that Harrop could not stop at just one parody, so several more have followed since February. It is safe to say that the subjects of the songs are not always as mainstream as Tony Finau. The enigmatic Victor Dubuisson and the grind of Monday qualifying are two of the more delightfully obscure nooks of the golf world that have been thrust into the limelight through Harrop’s songs.
A self-confessed golf nerd, Harrop draws on an impressive memory bank of knowledge to pepper his lyrics with details that are enough to drive even the more hardcore golf fan to do some further reading on Wikipedia. In the case of "That’s Victor Dubuisson" (set to the tune of Madonna’s "La Isla Bonita"), one particular line required no research on Harrop’s part. In his Ben Folds-esque voice, Sam croons “That match with Jason Day went all the way” – referring to the 2014 WGC Match Play final which went to 23 holes before Day eventually triumphed.
Harrop recalls, “I remember it well – I actually had money on Jason Day."
Gambling (which has been legal and widespread in the UK for decades) has been a running theme throughout Harrop’s golfing adventure, from placing bets on golf tournaments with friends almost 20 years ago, to running his own golf betting blog in more recent times – with some success.
“My best one ever was Angel Cabrera when he won the Masters – he was 200/1,” Harrop says.
Being British myself, I resist the temptation to ask how much Sam won through this wager. But in any case, the formation of a group of golf-loving Twitter followers through Harrop’s gambling tips provided a base which may have helped to amplify the buzz around Sam’s parodies.
The past six months have certainly been an exciting time in Harrop’s golf life. As well as the early interactions with Tony Finau, Sam’s song gently poking fun at Benny An’s putting ability – or lack thereof – led to a particular highlight. An, always self-deprecating on social media, took the line “Benny An, he putts like he has got glass eyes” (to the tune of the Beatles’ "Penny Lane") and had it engraved on one of his wedges.
“Surreal, but in a nice way,” is Harrop’s verdict. “You can’t beat that. I’m not sure I’m going to top that”.
There are some big names that Harrop has steered away from lampooning so far, though. A certain 15-time major winner, for instance.
“[Avoiding] Tiger Woods is sort of a conscious thing,” Sam explains. “He’s such an iconic player. Because of his fan base and his stature in the game, it almost seems like it’s going to be hard to do it justice. And also, I have to keep in mind, that if I’m trying to take the mick out of a player, there are certain things that you can joke about, like Benny An’s putting troubles, or Victor Dubuisson just being enigmatic, but with Tiger Woods, what do you say? You’re talking about sensitive topics, so it’s a tricky one… It’s hard to pull off the ‘taking the mick’ style without it seeming below the belt”.
While Harrop may have achieved something approaching minor celebrity status, at least in the golf Twittersphere, for the time being his songwriting remains very much a side gig, as Sam continues his day job working for a sheet music publisher. In fact, he reveals that his colleagues are unaware of his online life.
“I haven’t really advertised it to my colleagues, because if you’re not in the golf circle, then it must be a bit weird, and probably not that interesting, so I haven’t really mentioned it,” Sam confesses.
Although at the moment Harrop remains the Clark Kent of golf-based comedy, perhaps his colleagues might become more aware of his exploits away from work should he be successful in bringing his songs to a wider audience.
“I’m having some interesting conversations with organisations that want to do something – nothing concrete has happened yet – but hopefully I can grow it and see what more I can make of it,” he says.
With golf broadcasts always in need of some added flavor, it would seem like madness not to find a way to bring Sam’s work to TV at some point in the future.
For now, though, Harrop is focused on churning out the hits on social media. Luckily for us, there appears to be a steady stream of songs on the way, even if a Ryder Cup-themed ditty did have to be shelved until next year because of the event’s postponement. As we chat, Sam lets slip that his next piece will be an ode to his own personal golf hero, Phil Mickelson. Like Phil, Sam also plays left-handed, and that, combined with his swashbuckling style, made Mickelson a firm favourite from the early days when Harrop would watch the PGA Tour with his roommates.
“I can’t give away any details about it, but it’s coming soon… It’s probably my most complimentary song to date, it’s got a few little jibes in there, but I don’t want to cut him down too much,” he says.
As there is never a dull moment with Lefty, one can only imagine the rich treasure trove of material that Sam will have at his fingertips. I can hardly wait to hear it.