He would be terrible in a game of “Would You Rather.” For example, let’s say that the question is, “Would you rather be an exceptional college golfer or an internet sensation?” His answer would be “both.” And William Rainey should know.
Rainey was a 2016 PING All-America honorable mention selection and the first golfer in Cougars history to qualify for the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship as an individual. Last year, he was also named to the Colonial Athletic Association All-Academic Team, won the CAA Individual Championship title and earned CAA Most Outstanding Player honors.
But millions of people may know him for another talent.
As a senior in high school, Rainey – along with his friend Davis Bateman – decided to tape a series of golfing trick shots.
“We did it just for fun and to waste time,” confesses Rainey. “We were bored.”
They posted the video on Vine – and it took off.
In case you haven’t seen it, the video shows Rainey mastering outrageous trick shots, such as using a golf club to send a football through a basketball hoop, ricocheting a golf ball off several pots and pans until it lands inside a red Solo cup and nailing a perfect drive using a dead fish as a tee.
No, these aren’t your normal golf shots.
Not only did the video get more than 5 million views, but it was also featured on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive program. And it soon became a regular occurrence for perfect strangers to stop Rainey on the street and ask, “Hey, are you that guy from the golf video?”
“It was kind of funny,” he says.
But there is one trick that Rainey has never been able to master. Think of it as his “white whale.”
The shot begins on the second floor of his house in Charlotte. He chips the ball from inside his bedroom, through an open window toward a basketball goal 100 feet away. Flying seamlessly through the air, the golf ball lands inside a red Solo cup on top of the goal. That tough shot, however, has remained elusive for Rainey.
“We spent about two hours on that shot,” he says. “We hit the cup multiple times, but it never went in.”
Hitting the cup has not been a problem for Rainey during his college career thus far. This summer alone, he won the 2016 North Carolina Match Play Championship title, and he is one of only 35 men’s collegiate golfers in the country to be invited to play in the 2016 Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic.
For the 2016-17 season, Rainey hopes to build on his success. Last year he was an honorable mention All-American. This season, he would like to improve and be named a member of the PING All-America First or Second Team.
He’s also looking further ahead with big plans after he earns his sociology degree this spring. Instead of working on his résumé after graduation, he hopes to be working on making the professional golf circuit: “Obviously it will be tough, but I could never just get a job and always wonder ‘what if.’”
Like every golfer, Rainey is hoping for at least one good shot.