ROANOKE, Va. – If there's a will, there's a way. Just ask PGA Tour golfer Lanto Griffin.
"It's been something I've been dreaming about since being a kid. So it's starting to sink in," said Griffin.
The former Blacksburg High School golfer won his first career PGA Tour event over the weekend, the Houston Open. Griffin was calm and his play looked smooth, but his journey to this point has been anything but. His father taught him the game of golf at a young age but died when Griffin was just 12 years old. Despite the tragic loss, Griffin's time on the greens were far from over, thanks to the former head pro golfer at Blacksburg Country Club, Steve Prater.
"He had a very big passion for the game, and you could tell. It was so sad when his father diad, and I just wanted to help him out," said Prater.
"He gave me a full membership. So having a guy like Steve Prater come into my life the day my dad passed away and take over in a weird way, that changed my life right there," Griffin said.
He seized the opportunity and would later play collegiate golf at Virginia Commonwealth University before turning pro in 2010. Even thn, things weren't the best for the young pro financially, and he found it hard to keep his tour card. But he recalls a local tournament that helped turned things around in 2015.
"You know, when you're in credit card debt and you've got no status at all on any tour, you know picking up that win at the Delta Dental State Open was life-changing at the time," said Griffin.
"Golf is a lot about failure. You're going to fail. It's all about learning how to fail forward and not get down on yourself," said Prater. He now serves as the director of instruction at Roanoke Country Club.
Prater said it was never a question of if Griffin would get a PGA Tour win, but rather when.
"There's a lot of us that are close to him that believed he was going to win. It was just when was he going to do it, and you still have to go do it even though you have the ability and talent," Prater added.
He never gave up on the greens, and now Griffin is benefiting on the fairways that life has given him. He's most thankful for the job security that comes with the Houston Open victory, which includes a spot in the 2020 Masters, and the ability to give his mom a special gift in the coming weeks. His words of advice for any young people pursuing to the sport?
"If you think you're working hard, you're probably not working hard enough, and find what works for you," Griffin said.