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Bill Harmon’s road to recovery comes full circle

Bill Harmon’s road to recovery comes full circle

As soon as Bill Harmon arrived at Newport Country Club for the 44th U.S. Senior Open, he walked to the green below the famed clubhouse, which overlooks Bailey’s Beach in Newport, Rhode Island, and looked up at the balcony and said to himself, “Wow, what a life. The same guy who showed up with $20 in Orlando, wanted to jump off this building in 1992 will end his caddie relationship right below this balcony 32 years later.”

All those years ago, Harmon, 76, was the head professional of the famed blue-blood club and lived above the 18th green with his wife and newborn son. Yet back then, life didn’t seem so grand to the functioning alcoholic.

“I went out on that balcony and I contemplated doing a swan dive,” Harmon said. “I didn’t have the guts to do it but I felt like I didn’t want to be around anymore.”

Harmon has been clean since not long after that fateful night thanks to three members of the club who staged an intervention, and he returns this week to the grounds that were so pivotal in changing his life to caddie one last time for Jay Haas, his best friend.

This is a story of friendship, recovery and life coming full circle.

Living up to the family name

Harmon is the son of Claude Harmon, the 1948 Masters champion, teacher to four U.S. presidents and one of the most distinguished club pros in the game. For 33 years, he taught at Winged Foot Golf Club outside of Manhattan and his coaching tree of pros who learned under his wing include the likes of major winners Jack Burke Jr. and Dave Marr. Billy is seven years younger than his brother, Butch, who went on to be arguably the most famous golf instructor in the game for teaching Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman. His other brothers, Dick, who is deceased, and Craig also were recognized as among the finest club pros in the game.

For many years, Bill felt like a failure who wasn’t living up to the Harmon family name in the golf world.

Newport Country Club’s clubhouse balcony overlooking the 18th green. (Photo courtesy Bill Harmon)

“He was an unbelievable junior who won about everything you could win,” Butch told Global Golf Post in 2019. “Then he went to San Jose State and lost it when he got wrapped up in alcohol and drugs.”

In 1978, Haas, 24, had just won the Andy Williams San Diego Open, his first of nine career PGA Tour titles, and was looking for a caddie. A mutual friend recommended Harmon. They met in Palm Springs, California, and Haas told him to meet him…


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