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Shoots 7-under-par 63 Hoping to give back, Griffin goes low at Travelers

June 23, 2018

CROMWELL — He already got a chance this week to give back to people who helped him reach the PGA Tour. And if Lanto Griffin keeps playing like he did Friday, he’ll be able to give back a lot more.

The tour rookie from Virginia shot a 7-under-par 63 in the second round of the Travelers Championship. That matched two-time tournament champion Bubba Watson for the low score of the second round at TPC River Highlands, and it left him tied for eighth with Watson and Rory McIlroy, three strokes behind leader Brian Harman.

On Tuesday, Griffin won the tournament’s Umbrella at 15 1/2 charity challenge, hitting a shot closest to the target and winning $10,000 for the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame Scholarship.

“I wouldn’t have an opportunity to play if it wasn’t for 15, 20 guys that helped me play junior golf, amateur golf. I grew up and I didn’t have money growing up to play golf,” Griffin said.

“If anybody knows the meaning of giving back, it’s probably me. I just need to play better so I can build my brand and be able to start a foundation.”

Griffin told his story in a first-person piece for Golf Digest this week: losing his father to brain cancer as a boy, walking to the local nine-hole municipal course to play golf all day, getting support from the pro and the members at Blacksburg Country Club in Virginia.

Named for a spiritual master, Lord Lanto, Griffin played college golf at Virginia Commonwealth, inspiring Tuesday’s donation.

“Ten grand can go a long way for a kid going to college,” Griffin said. “So I donated it to a scholarship fund that gave me a scholarship when I was going to college. Being able to give ten grand back, that’s almost a year’s tuition.”

His biggest paycheck for a while came caddying for a friend who finished tied for fourth at the 2014 Greenbrier Classic. He was scraping out a living, sort of, on tour in South America, then the Web.com tour, up to $30,000 in debt and losing around $3,000 a week on missed cuts.

Set to quit last year, he went to the Nashville Golf Open in July, waiting out a rain delay texting his sports psychologist who told him to “embrace the opportunity.” He won in a playoff and made $99,000 that ultimately helped him earn his PGA Tour card.

He played his 29th birthday in Wichita, Kansas, on the Web.com Tour. His 30th was last week at the U.S. Open.

So here he is at TPC River Highlands, which he said reminded him of the courses on which he grew up. He made eight birdies Friday, coming back to birdie the 18th hole after making his only bogey on 17.

“I’ve just been on the cut line the last 10 weeks, it feels like, missing cuts by one or making them on the number,” Griffin said. “The goal today was just to get it where I didn’t have to worry about that and just kind of get ready for the weekend.”

He dropped in five birdies on the front nine and saved par with a 22-foot putt on the fifth hole.

“The last few weeks it’s been giving myself opportunities, and I haven’t been doing that,” Griffin said. “It’s nice to have a few birdie putts instead of making them for par.”

He tweaked his swing after Thursday’s even-par round — “just getting my right shoulder through, just hanging back” — and got results Friday, making the cut for the sixth time in 19 events.

“It will give me confidence. But tomorrow’s going to be a new day. I probably won’t think about it a whole lot,” Griffin said.

“I actually have a little bit of a shin injury from last week at Shinnecock, so I’ve been limping around the last week. I’ll probably just go home. I’ve been icing it a couple hours every night, and I’ll get to do that again tonight. That’ll keep my mind off of the tournament.”

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