Gary Woodland is 18 holes away from his first major championship. The American currently sits at 11-under par, leading the U.S. Open by one stroke over Englishman Justin Rose. Through 54 holes, he has only made bogey twice.
In fact, the Topeka (Kan.) native has only placed in the top-10 at a major once since turning pro in 2007. The 35-year old finished in a tie for 6th at the PGA Championship last year. Despite the lack of success in this area, Woodland ranks No. 9 overall on this year’s money list.
This is a long way since his college days at Kansas, as well as his basketball days at his hometown Division II Washburn University. Here’s a look at his collegiate career.
Gary Woodland Golf Career at Kansas & Basketball Career at Washburn
In high school, Woodland was also highly-successful basketball player at Shawnee Heights High School (as well as an elite golfer). The 4-year letter winner even garnered an All-City League Basketball MVP in 2002. He was known for his nearly unlimited range from behind the 3-point line.
“There was no range limit,” said Craig Cox, Woodland’s coach at Shawnee Heights, to ESPN. “As a coach, you’re looking at guys, that, as they get further from the basket, they have to change their shot. But he was so strong in his forearms and his wrists, which I think is contributing to his golf power. His shot looked exactly the same from 5 feet to 35 feet. I never said a word.
“He was one of those first guys that didn’t worry about the 3-point line, ‘OK, Gary’s inside half court, he’s in range.'”
The 6-foot-1 guard was described as incredibly skinny. This led him to be turned down for a scholarship by former Creighton coach Dana Altman. He ended up playing for the Washburn Ichabods, and his first game was an exhibition contest versus Kansas.
Per SB Nation, he quickly realized he didn’t have the athleticism to stick with elite athletes.
“I realized I was good in the state but these guys on a national level were a little different. I wasn’t quick enough and that was a big deal. I could shoot the heck out of it. I could see. I could handle the basketball but I wasn’t quick enough to move defensively.”
”Offensively, I was fine. I could get around, I could do stuff, but defensively I wasn’t quick enough. I couldn’t keep up. That was the biggest thing. And that was at the Division II level. You talk about Division I level. Our first game was at KU and I learned quickly I needed to find something else.”
After the reality check, he transferred to Kansas and switched to golf full-time. Over his 4-year career, he earned four tournament victories at the 2005 Cleveland State Invitational, 2006 Kansas Invitational, 2007 All-American Golf Classic and 2007 Louisiana Classics.
Per his Kansas bio, Woodland “qualified three times for the NCAA Regional, twice as a part of the team in 2004 and 2007 and once as an individual in 2006.”
He transitioned to the Web.com Tour right after ending his time in Lawrence. By 2009, he earned his PGA Tour card, competing in 18 events and making eight cuts.
Flash forward a decade later, he has raked in nearly $24 million in career earnings.