Golf's Bryan brothers have not only turned making a name for themselves into an art form, they've turned it into an industry.
The former South Carolina Gamecocks golfers from Chapin, S.C., have become viral sensations in the past 10 months with their trick-shot videos. This week, George IV and Wesley Bryan took it up another notch in their debut as competitors in the latest season of Golf Channel's Big Break reality show.
"It will be fun to see how the whole season unfolds and the drama that builds up," said 24-year-old Wesley, who moved to Augusta in May when his wife, Elizabeth, started classes in the Physicians Assistant program at Georgia Regents University Augusta. He practices at Forest Hills with the Georgia Regents men's golf team.
The sons of longtime PGA Professional George Bryan III, the Bryan brothers have held a high-profile for years around here. George – an eventual three-time All-American at South Carolina – twice won the Joe Wyatt Memorial at Aiken's Houndslake Country Club during his high school days. Wesley followed suit with an individual title at the 2007 Southern Cross Junior Invitational at Palmetto Golf Club, where their father also won the Aiken Golf Classic in 1984.
Perhaps the biggest influence they had in Augusta, however, didn't come with their names attached. In 2005, former Augusta National Chairman Hootie Johnson cited a casual round with a 5-foot-10, 160-pound teenager who was hitting wedges into the 7th and 17th holes at Augusta. "We are not worried about Tiger; we are worried about these 17-year-olds," Johnson said.
That 17-year-old was George Bryan, who played with his brother and father with Johnson, helping inspire the last massive lengthening project at the home of the Masters that summer.
A decade later on the mini-tours, the Bryans are seeking their own big breakthrough competing against each other and 10 additional men for more than $120,000 in prizes and a coveted exemption in the inaugural Barbasol Championship in Alabama on the PGA Tour in July. They are the second set of brothers to participate in the 23 installments of the golf reality series of challenges and competitions, following the lead of Tony and Gipper Finau.
"There's one common goal and that's to win," Wesley Bryan said of the Big Break experience. "You have to go through every single person. It doesn't matter who's standing across from you."
The Bryans grew up watching the show that twice before featured South Carolina friends (Tommy Gainey and Mark Silvers) winning. So they decided to audition last January for The Palm Beaches, Fla., edition.
"One of our teammates from South Carolina was Mark Silvers and he went on the Big Break a few years ago and won," Wesley said. "That kind of planted the seed a little bit."
Before they got accepted, another bit of golf footage captured their attention.
"We were watching ESPN one day and saw these two high school kids and one guy chipped another guy a ball and he hit it out of midair," Wesley said. "We saw on YouTube it got over a million hits. We were like, 'Dadgum, it can't be that hard.' So George and I were curious whether it was or not. We went out and tried it and I was able to hit it on one of the first few shots. So maybe we ought to make a couple of videos and see if people liked them."
Turns out, people do. BryanBros. Golf trick-shot videos on their YouTube channel have generated more than 600,000 hits since they started in April. Another video they did for GoPro camera generated 1,215,362 views alone.
"After that video got over a million views, that opened up doors for us to do bigger things," Wesley said. "We did a full 11-part series for Golf Digest over the summer in L.A. and they're still coming out. In 2014, we probably grossed over 2.5 million views on various platforms."
The videos are a fun way of promoting themselves and don't require much set-up or many takes. Wesley is "the designated hitter" while George is often the set-up man.
"He's done well in embracing his role," Wesley jokes. "It makes us work great together."
Their improvisational skill would make them seem like naturals for some of the quirky contests on the Big Break. But the intensity of the competition allowed no margin for outtakes.
"The nerves – it's a whole 'nother ballgame on that type of show," Wesley said. "I've played in hundreds and hundreds of tournaments and never felt the nerves you feel there. It's different. It's not a golf course where you tee it up and if you hit a bad shot you have a chance to go recover. You have to pull off a shot right then and there and if you don't there's no hiding or chance to redo. All the pressure just accumulates into one shot and you've got to hit a series of those. The pressure is way different than regular golf. It was a lot of fun."
That's saying a lot considering Wesley has endured his share of disheartening golf moments. At the 2010 NCAA Regional, his crushing 9 on the par-3 closing hole cost the Gamecocks a chance to advance to the national championships when a double bogey would have sufficed. His Big Break bio cites "yips" that nearly prompted him to hang up his golf clubs after shooting 101 in a tournament during his junior year.
But he got back on track as a senior and has competed well on the eGolf and NGA Hooters tours since graduating in 2012.
What's next? The Bryans are bound to secrecy about the results until the Big Break season plays out on the air.
"Every day we get people saying 'How did you do?' Obviously we can't say anything," Wesley said. "There's a lot of anticipation."
For Monday night's premiere, the BryanBros played host to a party at the Carolina Ale House in downtown Columbia for family, friends and anyone else who wants to join them. While they already know how the competition ends, Wesley Bryan is curious to see how it's presented – especially with the hours of daily private interviews mixed in.
Maybe this will be the breakthrough that launches one or both of them to non-viral glory.
"The exposure definitely doesn't hurt, as well as the exposure we're getting from the trick shots," Wesley said. "We're getting to the point where we offer enough exposure to brands and companies where they hop on board. The mini-tours can be financially burdening and you're basically living week-to-week, paycheck-to-paycheck. It's not as glamorous as it's cracked up to be from the outside perspective."
This article was written by Scott Michaux from The Augusta Chronicle, Ga. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.