Golf

How one hoops sport towards Kansas made Gary Woodland notice golf was his sport

Gary Woodland has all the time identified a factor or two about hitting lengthy pictures.

Years earlier than he was one of many PGA Tour’s longest drivers, his vary on the basketball courtroom began when he crossed half courtroom. Woodland had a leap shot in highschool and faculty that seemingly noticed no limits, which led to his coaches basically giving him a everlasting inexperienced gentle.

If Woodland may’ve pulled up after getting an inbounds cross, he would’ve, stated TJ Finan, a longtime childhood good friend and teammate of Woodland.

“There was no vary restrict,” stated Craig Cox, Woodland’s coach at Shawnee Heights Excessive Faculty, positioned exterior of Topeka, Kansas. “As a coach, you are guys, that, as they get farther from the basket, they’ve to vary their shot. However he was so sturdy in his forearms and his wrists, which I feel is contributing to his golf energy. His shot appeared precisely the identical from 5 ft to 35 ft. I by no means stated a phrase.

“He was a type of first guys that did not fear concerning the Three-point line, ‘OK, Gary’s inside half courtroom, he is in vary.'”

Woodland’s shot, hard-nosed protection, heady play, cold-bloodedness and toughness led him to a basketball scholarship at Washburn College, a Division II college in his hometown of Topeka. Nevertheless it took all of 1 sport — a season-opening exhibition towards the Kansas Jayhawks in historic Allen Fieldhouse — throughout his freshman season for Woodland to comprehend that basketball wasn’t going to be his future.

That was golf. And it is labored out fairly properly for him. In 11 years on the PGA Tour, Woodland has three wins and greater than $22.eight million in profession earnings. Woodland opens the WGC-Dell Applied sciences Match Play towards Eddie Pepperell.

It was a sport towards Kansas that was a actuality test for Gary Woodland. Washburn College

Rising up, Woodland, 34, was a standout basketball and baseball participant. He performed on a touring basketball group and likewise performed AAU across the Kansas Metropolis space earlier than he reached highschool. No matter courtroom he performed on, Woodland “was all the time one of many higher gamers,” Finan stated. However nearly as good as Woodland was at basketball, he was simply as gifted as a shortstop.

From about 9 to 13, Woodland performed on a touring baseball group that Finan described as “fairly darn good.” However as a result of highschool baseball and golf have been each spring sports activities in Kansas, Woodland could not play each for Shawnee Heights, so he selected to play on its golf group and joined a summer season baseball group. The final summer season he and Finan performed baseball collectively, they have been 16 and gained nationals in Georgia that yr.

As soon as Woodland acquired to highschool, he started separating himself from his classmates on the courtroom.

He did not begin for Cox as a freshman however noticed vital minutes as Shawnee Heights made a deep postseason run.

“That was my plan as he matured via his freshman yr,” Cox stated. “I appeared again at his footage as a freshman, he was such just a little boy. He was child face and thin. Now you have a look at him as a linebacker: a giant, athletic physique.”

Woodland began as a sophomore and helped lead a Shawnee Heights group stocked with upperclassmen to the 2000 state championship. The following yr, his group misplaced within the state semifinals. From his sophomore to senior years, Woodland began all 75 video games wherein he performed.

By then, schools had began to note the versatile sharp-shooting guard. Woodland was getting curiosity from primarily smaller Division I faculties and Division II faculties.

Cox tried to assist Woodland. He reached out to a few of his faculty contacts, together with Dana Altman, then at Creighton, and pitched the 6-foot-1 Woodland as a guard who may “shoot the lights out.” Cox stated the response was customary: “Who can he guard? How’s he going to be on protection?” However Cox did not have a superb reply. If Woodland was popping out of highschool at present, Cox believes, with the premium that faculties placed on shooters, Woodland would have acquired extra and higher affords.

Again then, if Woodland was going to play faculty basketball, he knew the place he needed it to occur: the College of Kansas.

But when the Jayhawks weren’t , there was only one college wherein Woodland was realistically : Washburn College.

He was near Washburn’s program. A few of his associates and coaches rising up performed there. He was acquainted with it. It was in his hometown. And this system was good. Two years earlier than he arrived, the Ichabods misplaced within the nationwide championship sport.

Woodland dedicated to Washburn as a junior.

Nevertheless it was after his faculty determination was determined that Woodland stated he started enjoying “fairly good” golf in highschool. At that time, only one college was recruiting him regardless of finally successful three metropolis championships: Kansas.

Gary Woodland had some vary as a basketball participant. Washburn College

Then got here his senior basketball season.

Woodland was the lone holdover from the state title group two years earlier. A task participant on that squad, the group his senior yr was his.

“He was the man,” Finan stated. “He was the commander in chief, no matter you need to name it.”

Shawnee Heights ran the triangle that season, so the offensive workload was distributed extensively, however when a play was drawn up in a timeout, it was normally referred to as for Woodland, Finan stated.

En path to changing into the varsity’s first — and solely — all-state choice, Woodland averaged 18 factors per sport as a senior and, as Finan recalled, “went off” within the state title sport, scoring 26 factors.

“He was a type of guys that nothing scared him,” Finan stated.

Woodland went to Washburn as a backup capturing guard with one job: shoot it.

Woodland, former Washburn coach Bob Chipman recalled, had “nice” rhythm on his shot with “good rotation” and perfect follow-through.

“I imply, he may actually shoot it,” Chipman stated. “When it got here out of his hand, it was like, ‘Oh, it is stepping into.’ it is stepping into.”

That season, Woodland shot 120 Three-pointers, making 38, which has left him fifth all-time at school historical past for freshmen in Three-pointers tried and fourth in 3s made. In a late-season sport towards Northwest Missouri, Woodland got here off the bench to hit 5-of-6 Three-pointers and completed with a team-high 21 factors in a win.

Nonetheless, Woodland was greater than a shooter. He understood the sport, Chipman stated, and was powerful as nails.

Twice throughout Woodland’s freshman yr, Chipman challenged him to earn his scholarship in follow. Each occasions Woodland responded. The primary time, Chipman requested Woodland if he was ever going to get a rebound. And if he did, the group was going to run. The guard acquired a rebound, the group ran and everybody was mad at Woodland, Chipman remembered.

The second time, Chipman requested if Woodland was ever going to get a flooring burn not less than as soon as in follow. That day, Woodland dove on the courtroom and broke a finger on his left hand. To at the present time, Chipman feels unhealthy about that. Each time Woodland misses a brief putt, Chipman blames himself.

However actuality started to set in for Woodland throughout his freshman season, wherein he averaged six factors per sport.

“I spotted I used to be good within the state however these guys on a nationwide stage have been just a little completely different,” Woodland stated. “I wasn’t fast sufficient and that was a giant deal. I may shoot the heck out of it. I may see. I may deal with the basketball however I wasn’t fast sufficient to maneuver defensively.

“Offensively, I used to be superb. I may get round, I may do stuff, however defensively I wasn’t fast sufficient. I could not sustain. That was the most important factor. And that was on the Division II stage. You speak about Division I stage. Our first sport was at KU and I discovered shortly I wanted to search out one thing else.”

It wasn’t simple, however he did.

Now, whilst one of many tour’s high gamers, Woodland nonetheless says the choice to go away basketball was “very onerous.” Had he stayed at Washburn, Chipman stated Woodland would’ve ended up beginning the subsequent yr due to accidents and “in all probability would have shot it each time.”

He had signed with Washburn to play basketball and golf, however in an effort to assist him combine with the basketball group shortly, he did not play fall golf — the primary time he had consciously stopped enjoying. By the point the basketball season was over and he had determined to surrender the game, it was April and he hadn’t touched a golf membership because the begin of the varsity yr, a span of about seven months.

“I did miss it,” Woodland stated. “So, that transition was just a little bit simpler from the standpoint that I missed it a lot. I used to be dying to get again into it.”

Woodland now wonders if he would’ve transferred had he performed golf his freshman yr at Washburn, or if he would’ve transferred in any respect if he had been required to sit down out a yr, which he wasn’t as a result of he was altering sports activities.

“Quite a lot of issues fell into play that labored out for me,” Woodland stated.

Woodland had a connection to the Jayhawks’ coaches via junior golf in Kansas, however when their recruitment of Woodland started, the late former Jayhawks coach Ross Randall did one thing he not often did, Woodland stated. Hē made an in-house go to to Woodland.

“I used to be solely the second home go to he’d ever executed,” Woodland stated.

Woodland remembered Randall being “very upset” when Woodland determined to play basketball at Washburn, however the coach left a scholarship open for Woodland within the occasion the golfer modified his thoughts. Randall advised a younger Woodland, “I feel your future is in golf.” He was proper. When Woodland determined to pursue golf as a substitute of basketball, he referred to as Randall.

The second Woodland selected Kansas, his basketball profession was over. Due to NCAA guidelines, he wasn’t allowed to attempt to stroll on to a significant sport group as a result of he performed a minor sport. Golf was his sport.

“The remainder,” Woodland stated, “is historical past.”

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