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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Two springs ago, Ben Griffin wasn’t walking the fairways of the Players Championship. He didn’t hold a PGA Tour card. He wasn’t even playing professional golf.

His focus then? The kind of numbers that aren’t on a golf scorecard.

“I could imagine, you know, a homeowner going under contract and we had to finance a loan,” he said. “That’s about it.”

From golf to the mortgage industry to golf once more, and now challenging the best in the world, Griffin shot a 5-under 67 to mark a Players Championship debut that’s among the most unlikely on the leaderboard.

A resident of St. Simons Island, Georgia, and originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the 26-year-old Griffin concluded in a tie for third with Taylor Pendrith and Justin Suh when darkness suspended play Thursday evening.

Following a bumpy start with bogeys on two of his first four holes, Nos. 11 and 13, he regained his rhythm and finished with a flourish, sinking birdies on his last three holes at 7, 8 and 9.

Not bad for a player who stepped away from the sport two years ago following a collegiate career at the University of North Carolina. One who, as of the week’s start, didn’t even have a Wikipedia page.

From March to August 2021, he said, he placed his golf career on hold to work as a loan officer in the mortgage industry. That summer, he came back, first on the Korn Ferry Tour and then advancing to the PGA Tour in the fall.

While Griffin had previously taken on the Players Stadium Course almost a decade ago at the Junior Players, he said he had little real recollection of the course apart from a bad memory while in the next-to-last group.

“My ball got stuck in a tree, just short of the green on No. 1, those over hanging palms,” he said. “So that’s actually my only memory from the event.”

And although he’s not yet a household name, he has been steadily climbing his way up the leaderboard. He has made 11 of his last 12 PGA Tour cuts and has placed in the top 35 or higher in seven of his last eight, including a tie for 14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Ben Griffin looks on during the second round of the 2023 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)”I was sneaky in the mix, so coming in here, it’s the same field, it’s the same players, it’s just me versus the golf course. If I play well, I know my name is going to be up there.”

He’s also climbed to 35th in the FedEx Cup standings and 78th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Unlike the Florida Gators’ football home, maybe there won’t be a stadium named for this Ben Griffin. But if he puts together three more rounds of golf like the first, the former loan officer can carve his name into the Stadium Course’s history. For keeps.

“I have a nice perspective of having worked a desk job,” he said. “It helps me out there have fun, because I know at the end of the day, I’m just blessed to be playing golf.”

Photos: 2023 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass