Getting to Know Grover
When the Larry Gilbert Player of the Year award is presented to a Kentucky PGA Professional, one of the biggest perks is receiving an exemption to play in the Barbasol Championship on the PGA Tour. For the second consecutive year, Grover Justice, the 2018 Larry Gilbert Player of the Year, will tee it up at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville to compete alongside some of the best players in the world. In the 2018 Barbasol Championship, Justice recorded an impressive 36-hole score of 142 (-2) that came just two strokes shy of making the cut. Justice is aiming to make the cut and play on the weekend this time, but his humble roots and success away from professional golf simply make playing in the Barbasol Championship a bonus.
All in all, it was a stellar season for the Instructor at High Performance Golf Academy in Nicholasville; one that Justice hopes to build on going forward. Justice has been playing competitive golf since his childhood, he played professionally on a full-time basis, and strives to accomplish more as his career progresses.
“My first experience at playing golf was a par 3 course in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my dad and my brother when I was 12,” Justice explained. “I had three older brothers, so I naturally became very competitive. They would beat me in different sports, tease me, and I got sick of losing. I didn’t want to lose anymore, and after my parents became members of Green Meadow CC in Pikeville, I started working hard to make sure I wouldn’t lose anymore.”
That hard work would go on to pay off as Justice was no longer beating his brothers but beating a majority of the people he would play against. Justice would go on to walk-on for the golf team at University of Kentucky, which began a successful college career as a Wildcat from 1993 to 1997.
“I had options to attend other schools where I had scholarship offers, but since I was a UK fan and had a brother living in Lexington, I decided to go there. After I walked on, I finished in 2nd place at an event that fall and received a 50% scholarship in the spring semester. By my sophomore year it became a full scholarship. I was fortunate to win five times in college, twice at the University of Louisville, East Carolina, Kent State, and the UK Johnny Owen’s Invitational. Ultimately, the best part about that time was the friends I made on the team. The experience and bonding were unmatched.”
The collegiate success propelled Justice to begin a journey towards becoming a full-time playing professional. After playing on mini tours for several years, Justice became a member on the Web.com Tour in 2002. The stand-out moment from his days there came in Arkansas during his first season when he finished T5 at the Fort Smith Classic; an event that could have completely altered Justice’s life.
“I went into the final round of that tournament knowing that I had a chance to win, which is pretty cool to look back on. I finished three shots out of a playoff and winning that could have changed everything. I wouldn’t have done anything differently and God’s plan for me showed. I’ve been married for 21 years to my wife Heather and we have two kids, Logan and Madelyn. Playing mini tour golf isn’t exactly advisable if you have a family, so it all worked out great.”
Justice began transferring his talents from playing golf to teaching golf, a path that has been extremely successful and enjoyable for Justice. His students range across all ages, all of whom have their own unique goals. From those just beginning to play golf at an introductory level to those attempting to play competitively in some form, Justice has found success with people from all walks of life. Five of his younger students recently signed letters of intent to play college golf at Morehead State, Western Kentucky, Murray State, Georgetown, and Midway. They expanded on Justice’s collegiate clientele, which now consists of 20 college golfers.
“There’s nothing like being able to change somebody’s life through golf. Getting that reaction of when someone hits a shot great with that look in their eye never gets old. Giving people the ability to enjoy a game that can benefit their lives or careers is amazing. And to think that I may have had a little bit of an impact on them getting to that point is pretty cool.”
While Justice will continue to help golfers on the lesson tee, his days playing competitively are far from over. During last year’s Barbasol Championship, Justice teed it up in his first PGA Tour event and will compete in the event for the second straight year this summer.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect last year. It was bigger than I anticipated, and the following was unbelievable. Having my kids watch me play was really neat. I actually ended up playing better than I expected though. I really could not have hit the ball any better; I just didn’t putt as well as I needed to. It’s not like I’m coming into this year with high expectations though. I’ll do what I can to be prepared, but I’m just going to enjoy it like I did last year. Making the cut would be my goal, but this isn’t going to alter my life, so I’m going to make sure I take everything in and enjoy it.”