ASHLAND — Ethan Rardon might be the most envied boy at Summit Elementary School this year.
On an unforgettable July day as a spectator watching professional golf at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, the 10-year-old found himself in the middle of a situation he’ll be talking about the rest of his life.
Rardon and his father, Jason, were in the crowd for the second round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, the PGA Tour event played on the Old White TPC course.
He was positioned by the security ropes around the 18th green as golfer Danny Lee finished his round. Lee, the 2015 winner of the Greenbrier tournament, handed the young fan his $500 Odyssey putter when he walked away from the green.
After Lee’s kindly act was viewed thousands of times online, Rardon corrected his mother, Rachel Rardon, who said her son had gone viral. The savvy lad who said his favorite subject is math told his mother, “Mom, you have to be viewed 1 million times to go viral.”
It has gone viral since with well more than 1 million views, mainly thanks to the PGA Tour Facebook page, and more than 200,000 on Twitter.
Rardon said he was hoping to possibly have a golfer give him a ball or glove, but not a putter.
“Are you sure?” Rardon said he asked Lee, who was upset and didn’t respond after shooting a 2-over-par round of 72 and missing the cut by two shots. Rardon who was in misbelief heard Lee’s caddie say, “Bud, you’re going to need this too,” as he handed the youngster the club cover.
The moment was reminiscent of the “Hey Kid, Catch!” Coca-Cola commercial from 1979 when “Mean” Joe Greene threw his Pittsburgh Steelers jersey to a boy who gave him a Coke. “It was one of the best moments in my life,” Rardon said.
People seeking souvenirs from pro golfers could learn from Rardon, who has quite a collection from tournaments including the PGA Championship when it was at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
“The tournament before this one, I got like 24 balls and like five gloves,” he said. “The tournament where I got the putter I got 36 balls, I think six gloves, a putter and a visor. Jim Furyk gave me a glove.”
Rardon’s father said Bubba Watson gave him a ball in 2017. “It’s pink,” young Rardon said.
Collecting souvenirs isn’t Rardon’s only hobby. He also plays golf once a week in the summer at Creekside Golf Course in Lavalette, West Virginia, about five minutes from his house.
He played at Austin Hills Golf Course near Ashland before it closed. It was owned by former Arizona Diamondback, Ashland Tomcat and Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb.
“I could have driven my little Batman go-cart over there — it was really close,” he said.
The young golfer’s favorite sport is basketball, which might surprise people, his father said. He plays on the Summit Elementary School basketball team. He’s also a left-handed pitcher on a traveling baseball team and enjoys playing Fantasy Football.
Rardon likes attending Marshall University football and basketball games, and University of Kentucky basketball games when he has the opportunity. He attended the Coach John Calipari Basketball Camp this summer at Kentucky.
“It was cool,” he said. “We got to meet all the players. We got to meet the incoming recruits.”
One of Rardon’s favorite places is Strike Zone Bowling Center in Huntington. He has won four state tournaments including West Virginia’s 8-year-old state championship.