From basketball to golf: the strange story of Gary Woodland

According to theOfficial World Golf Ranking, Gary Woodland is the 19th ranked golfer in the world. In 2019, he made us dream with a stunning performance at the U.S. Open, which earned him his first win in a Major. Yet, Gary’s first love is not golf.

Gary Woodland was born as a basketball player and this is his strange story.

A life devoted to basketball

Let me be clear: Gary Woodland has been playing golf forever. At his school, Shawnee Heights High School in Topeka, he is a small star on both the golf team and the basketball team. When he plays basketball, he defends his portion of the court with a dedication that verges on nastiness. Once, he even ended up in the hospital for a tackle that was perhaps a little too vehement.

Although the boy is not very tall-“barely” 185 cm-such passion can only result in a glittering basketball career. Several universities offered him to join their teams, offering him a scholarship for athletic merit. Eventually he chose one from Division II, Washburn University.

In his mind, Washburn is a good but still temporary choice. He aims high. He aims to play on theUniversity of Kansas basketball team. He threw himself headlong into basketball, improved his scoring and managed to score an average of 6 points per game. For some time, he seems to forget golf.

Until one night his path crosses Kirk Hinrich’s.

Destiny has a name: Kirk Hinrich

The Washburn basketball team is second in Division II, while theUniversity of Kansas team is first in Division I. The two teams will have to compete. This is the first official game for Gary, but he feels ready: after all, is he or was he not State Champion for two years? This is his big chance to prove to himself and others what he is worth.

Who knows, maybe he will be able to get noticed. Perhaps his dream of getting into the University of Kansas is a little closer.

The game starts and Gary tries to tag one of the other team’s attackers. Gary is as aggressive as usual, yet he keeps crashing into the defense of this lanky guy with glasses. Whatever he does, he cannot find a single opening. He cannot stop its advance in any way, his defense crumbling in front of him.

To his horror, Gary realizes that his titles and awards are waste paper. He is looking at someone who really has basketball in his blood, who will really make his way in life. From one moment to the next, he compares his own career possibilities with those of this unknown boy.

Gary looks at Kirk Hinrich, future NBA basketball player, and realizes that basketball is not for him.

The light at the end of the tunnel

In one evening, Gary Woodland finds himself without a road to travel. He could turn a blind eye, aim for a few lesser teams and live a faded version of his dream. He might delude himself that it was a fluke, that his opponent was simply out of scale, and that there is still hope.

No, moving on is useless: now that he knows what someone with really great prospects looks like, he can no longer ignore him. From one day to the next, he then decided to give up basketball and pursue something else entirely. Yes, but what?

In the closet, almost forgotten, is still his golf bag. Gary pulls it out, dusts it off, and the wheel of his destiny starts turning again.

Just as he had thrown himself heart and soul into basketball, Gary is throwing himself heart and soul into golf. Only now there is something that was not there when he played basketball; a strange, though pleasant, feeling. A feeling of rightness, that is, as if it had finally found the place where it was meant to be from the beginning.

Halfway through the year, Gary changes universities. He enrolled at theUniversity of Kansas on an athletic merit scholarship, as he had always dreamed. Only he does it by joining the golf team.

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