Bryson Nimmer of Bluffton and his long-time girlfriend Paige Simms enjoy a boat day with their black lab puppy, Bentley. COURTESY BRYSON NIMMER

He spent much of the previous five years working tirelessly while rapidly climbing the ranks of the collegiate and pro golfing world. Now, after a year of having to exhibit patience in the face of worldwide chaos, Bluffton native Bryson Nimmer is getting his first PGA Tour start in his own backyard.

Nimmer, 23, is the son of Tony and Patsy Nimmer.

He is among the 132-player field for the 2021 RBC Heritage, taking place April 12-18 at Harbour Town Golf Links. He earned the exemption after a stellar finish to an abbreviated 2020 golf season, highlighted by his points title win in the LocalIQ series, a schedule of PGA minor-league tourneys that filled the void of six months of cancelled events during the first months of the COVID outbreak.

“It has been a crazy year. We went from thinking I would be trying to play regularly on the Korn Ferry tour to not having any golf, to this LocalIQ tour being put together,” Nimmer said. “I came home to Bluffton, stayed with family and focused on getting my game in the best shape possible and thankfully, I was ready to perform when the calls came.”

Nimmer earned an additional PGA Tour exemption with his LocalIQ points title win. He was assigned the 2021 Canadian Open, which was canceled due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns north of the border. He began the year by finishing tied for 39th in the 2021 Puerto Rico Open in late February, his third consecutive year playing the second-tier PGA Tour event and second time making the cut.

“I’m so excited that The Heritage will actually be my first top-tier PGA tourney start,” said Nimmer, a 2019 collegiate first-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I’ve been playing well and working toward this the last couple years. It means a lot to get that first chance on a course I know and love.”

Nimmer has been busy the past month after spending time in the Lowcountry to work on his game with coach and Sea Pines pro Tim Cooke. He played Monday qualifiers for the Honda Classic in Florida on March 15 and the Korn Ferry Club Car Championship in Savannah on March 22 before turning his attention to Heritage tourney prep.

He didn’t qualify for either tourney, but the habit of playing on Monday is a necessary evil for up-and-comers yet to breakthrough. A big splash at the Heritage could help him get out of the Monday grind and into more PGA Tour tournaments.

One of his best friends, Clemson golf teammate Doc Redman, won a Monday qualifier and then finished second in the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic. The finish earned him $788,400 and PGA Tour membership for the rest of the 2019 season.

“That’s the dream and I feel like my game is in a really good place right now. Tim and I have been working a plan and I’m feeling more comfortable with every swing,” Nimmer said. “The mental part is so huge, just finding that comfort level. We’re figuring out that sweet spot.”

Nimmer lost his grandparents, Fred and Joan, within a day of each other Jan. 10-11, both due to COVID complications. The couple were married 65 years and pillars of the Lowcountry community.

“It was tough, but they lived an amazing life. Freddie had heart issues, he had a pacemaker and a widowmaker. And the COVID issues was making those those things pop and put him into defib shock every day,” Nimmer said. “Grandma always said ‘I don’t want to be here if he’s not here.’ Grandpa passed at 8 p.m. the night before. We told Grandma at 10 a.m. the next morning and she passed an hour later.”

The loss has made Nimmer appreciate what he has all the more. He recently moved in with long-time girlfriend and fellow Blufftonian, Paige Simms. The two are pampering a new addition, black lab puppy Bentley.

“I always wanted a big dog but my Mom, she always had these teacup handhelds. So this is a new adventure. Bentley is just awesome,” Nimmer said of his new canine buddy.

Nimmer is no stranger to Heritage Classic Foundation events, having won the 2014 Sea Pines Junior Heritage and finishing second in the 2017 Players Amateur at his home course, Berkeley Hall Club. He is excited to have Simms and his family and friends at this year’s Heritage, which will allow a limited number of spectators each day.

“It’s going to be exciting to have supporters out there. Just to have fans on the course is thrill,” Nimmer said. “When it was so quiet out there for months, we really missed the roars.”

He enters the tournament ranked 553rd in the World Golf Rankings after his strong LocalIQ and Puerto Rico finishes. No matter where he ends up on the Heritage leaderboard, Nimmer knows it’s a launching board for great things to come.

“I want to be a good role model for the game and for all the kids playing,” he said. “I want to support any efforts to get kids playing. I have been so fortunate to have been given so many opportunities, I want to give back and thank a lot of people with my actions on and off the course.”

Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at timwood@blufftonsun.com.