COLUMBIA, S.C. - Lucas Glover always led the way in practice and workouts at Clemson, his former college coach says. So it's no surprise to Larry Penley that his former All-America became the first Tiger to win a major championship with his U.S. Open victory Monday.
"Lucas was pretty much out front in everything, first one to practice, first one to work hard," Penley said through tears after watching Glover's victory.
Glover capped a grueling week with a 3-over 73, securing a two-stroke victory at Bethpage Black over Phil Mickelson, David Duval and Ricky Barnes.
Glover is a Greenville native who learned to play from his grandfather, Clemson football Hall of Famer Dick Hendley.
The 82-year-old Hendley remembers his grandson having good balance when he put a club in his hand at 3-years-old.
"I thought he had something special that a lot of children don't have," Hendley said by phone from his home Monday.
When Glover was 9, Hendley took him to the late golf teacher Dick Harmon - instrumental in Lucas' development until his death in 2006. After excelling at Wade Hampton High, Glover signed to play golf at his grand dad's college in 1997.
The Tigers were in the midst of producing several PGA Tour regulars, including Glover's Clemson teammates Charles Warren, Jonathan Byrd and D.J. Trahan.
Right away, Penley saw the steely, cap-pulled-low focus on display at the Bethpage Monday to work as hard as it took to succeed.
Penley recalled how Byrd and Tiger golfer John Engler were tossing a football on the practice range once while Glover was hitting balls. Each time the ball came a little closer - and Glover grew a bit more irritated.
Finally, Glover picked up the football "and threw it, I mean a frozen rope, about 75 yards," Penley said.
There were few as dogged and determined when it was time to get down to business, Penley said.
Glover won three consecutive South Carolina amateur titles from 1998 to 2000. "Never been done before," Hendley said with pride.
He helped the Tigers finish top 10 nationally three of his four seasons there. He exhausted his eligibility in 2001 and was still four credits shy of his bachelor's degree. So after gaining his PGA Tour card and in the midst of a breakout season in 2005, Glover chose to finish school.
Glover took classes online and came to campus after tournaments or during off weeks to complete his requirements with a biology class. He walked with Clemson graduates that December, two months after his first career victory in the Funai Classic at Disney.
In 2007, Glover joined his grandfather in Clemson's hall of fame, the first grandfather-grandson duo enshrined.
Many thought Glover was poised for more victories and bigger things. Instead, Hendley said his grandson put too much pressure on himself and his game. While Glover earned more than $5 million the previous three seasons, he could not break through. When Glover didn't make the Ryder Cup team last summer, he took the rest of 2008 off.
"He was disgusted and discouraged," Hendley said. "I told him, 'Luke, that's the best thing you could do.'"
Glover spent time at home with family and reset his mind. Turned out to be just what he needed. Hendley said Glover returned to the game sharper yet less burdened by expectations.
Soon after his win on Monday, South Carolina's U.S. Senators, Republicans Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, introduced a resolution congratulating Glover for bringing "great pride and honor to his family, friends, his alma mater Clemson University, and the citizens of South Carolina with his victory."
Hendley watched his grandson's clinching two-putt on the 72nd hole. He didn't make the trip because the course's layout was too hilly for him, but he called at Glover through the TV.
"'Luke, you're the best golfer in the world today,'" Hendley said.