Woodland Featured In Golfweek Article

Nov. 28, 2005

Swing Man Woodland’s gamble paying off

Golfweek Assistant Editor And now, let’s meet the starting lineup for the Ichabods of Washburn University. At guard, a 6-foot-2 freshman from Topeka, Kansas – No. 23, Gary Woodland. (Fast forward one year.) And now on the first tee, from Kansas, Gary Woodland. Not many college students make the transition from one sport to the next look as easy as Woodland. Then again, not many hit their jump shot and driver as efficiently as this all-around athlete. Woodland, who played one season of college basketball before transferring to the Jayhawk golf team in 2003, stormed onto college golf’s most-talked-about list this fall. In his first two seasons at Kansas, Woodland had three top-10 showings in 24 events. This season he has already notched four top-10s, including a victory at the Cleveland State Invitational – site of this year’s NCAA Central Regional. Woodland’s path to college golf success is different than most. Always a hoopster, Woodland’s competitive junior golf record was limited at best, and he was barely recruited to play college golf. Woodland decided to give college basketball a go and accepted a scholarship at Washburn University, a Division II school with an enrollment of just over 6,000 located in Topeka. “I was not ready to not give up basketball,” said Woodland, who led Shawnee Heights High School to two state championship titles. Woodland started the first four games of his freshman season. He averaged 6 points, made 38 three-point shots and converted nearly 90 percent from the charity stripe. The Ichabods ended the season with a 26-6 record, losing in the sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II tournament. But the itch to swing the club was beginning to win over the feeling of knocking down long-range jumpers. “It was just one of those things where I was just playing basketball and missed golf way too much,” said Woodland. “I want to play pro golf and decided it was time to move on and focus on golf.” Woodland had planned on playing golf at Washburn as well, but felt he needed a bigger stage. Kansas coach Ross Randall, who just happened to be the only Division I coach to recruit him out of high school, was there once again when Woodland was ready to return to golf. His first two seasons were nothing spectacular, finishing in the 300s of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. But things started to change in the spring of his sophomore season.
“Gary started coming around near the end of his sophomore year and had a great summer,” said Randall, who has led the Jayhawk program since 1980. “He won Kansas State Amateur and won nearly everything around Kansas and Missouri last summer.”
Randall noticed early last spring that Woodland was asking everyone around him how he could get better. He found a new swing teacher in Randy Smith of Dallas and started working with Phil Towle, a sports psychologist, from Topeka who now lives in California.
“I sat down last spring and decided it was time to make a change instead of just going through the motions,” Woodland said.
He speaks with Towle on a regular basis and feels Smith can take his game to the next level.
“He (Smith) has helped me use my length to my advantage and make the game as easy as possible,” said Woodland. “I have always made the game tougher than it is – trying to do too much. Randy has made everything easy and the way he relates it is unbelievable.”
Woodland’s experience playing a team sport helped him deal with the ups and downs associated with golf and taught him dedication.
“I learned a lot from my experience at Washburn and that has carried over here to playing golf at Kansas,” said Woodland. “Coach (Bob) Chipman taught me so much about practice, and I apply what I learned there with my golf game.”
For now, it’s all about golf. Woodland has only been to two Jayhawk basketball games and can’t bring himself to even participate in pickup games.
“It was a lot tougher when I was not playing very well in golf,” said Woodland. “I would think, ‘why did I leave (basketball) when I’m playing (golf) like this?’ ”
Luckily for Woodland, who ended the fall season ranked 14th, the second-guessing is over. He’s averaging 69.87 after 15 rounds and is still looking to improve.
“I am happy with where I am, but there are things I need to work on improving and having a bigger and better spring,” said Woodland, already one of the longest hitters in the college game.
Kansas assistant coach Roy Edwards is so impressed with Woodland’s progress, he said that if he were captain of a pickup basketball-type game for college golf, “He might just be my first pick.” Link to storyhttp://www.golfweek.com/college/around_campus/features/284770384418344.php