PALM HARBOR, Fla.—Jim Herman was persuaded to play the Valspar Championship by an influential acquaintance, and he made it pay off yesterday with a nine-under 62 for a two-shot lead.
No, it wasn't U.S. President Donald Trump this time.
Herman wasn't getting much out of his game—three missed cuts and a tie for 27th—when he played the Seminole Pro-Member the day after the Honda Classic.
Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, came along for nine holes and liked what he saw from Herman, who said he would have had a 65 that day.
“Had a really good day there and got urged on from Jack Welch—he's a member there—to play here,” Herman noted.
“I was looking at taking two weeks off, so I was kind of a late commit to this tournament,” he added.
“I guess I'm certainly glad I took his advice.”
David Hearn of Brantford, Ont. and Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C. both shot 68s yesterday to sit in a tie for 11th at three-under par.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask. had a even-par 71 to be tied for 56th while Nick Taylor of Abbotsford was in a group at 79th at one-over.
Herman putted for birdie on all but two holes. And except for a 35-foot putt from the fringe on No. 10 (his opening hole), the rest of his birdie putts all were from 15 feet or closer.
He only came close to bogey once—making an eight-foot par save on No. 2.
He wound up missing the course record by one shot, but still had a two-shot lead over British Open champion Henrik Stenson and Russell Henley.
The first round did not finish because of a one-hour fog delay yesterday morning, though it should be back on schedule by the weekend.
Herman, of course, is most famous for his relationship with Trump.
After grinding on the mini-tours for longer than he cares to remember, he took a job as an assistant pro at Trump National in New Jersey and one day was summoned to play with the boss.
Herman played great that day, and Trump encouraged him to give the PGA Tour another attempt.
He eventually made it and picked up his first PGA Tour victory last year at the Shell Houston Open.
Herman still has an endorsement deal with Trump, and he has the Trump golf logo on the crest of his shirt and on his golf bag.
The two weeks he missed on the West Coast swing was to attend the inauguration.
Herman only has one top 10 since his victory in Houston last year and has slipped to No. 89 in the world, meaning he likely will need a victory in the next few weeks of he wants to return to the Masters.