Rookie Aaron Wise has a chance to win his first tournament on the PGA Tour on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas. Wise, 21, would join a short list of players to win their first PGA Tour tournament before the age of 22, and would do so in just his 26th start on the tour. He enters Sunday tied for the 54-hole lead with veteran Marc Leishamn at 17 under.
“Going out today, I felt like I had expectations which is crazy because I’ve only been there once before,” Wise told CBS Sports after the third round of the Byron Nelson. “I felt like I expected a little bit more of myself. I put a little too much pressure on myself early. Taking that aside, I did great at the back nine and finished at 3 under which is great today.”
Wise competed for the win two weeks at the Wells Fargo Championship. He said that success will help him on Sunday in Dallas.
“Knowing that I’ve been there and that I’ve played well,” Wise, who won the NCAA Championship at the University of Oregon and turned pro in 2016, told CBS Sports. “That was a really cool setting around Quail Hollow with so many people. For me to perform some of the shots I did and play as well as I did down the stretch, just a lot of confidence it gives me going into tomorrow and playing this course. The courses are totally different, but the pressure will be kind of the same. Now that I’ve been there, I think I’ll have a better chance at it.”
The youthful Wise will have the support of family and friends as he tries to get his first career PGA Tour victory. Here’s what you need to know about Aaron Wise’s family and background:
1. Wise’s Mother & Father Are From South Africa, Where He Was Born & Lived Until the Family Moved to California When He Was 3
Aaron Wise’s parents, Marc Wise and Karla Kane, are from South Africa, and Wise was born there, in Cape Town, on June 21, 1996. He and his family moved to California when he was 3, according to Golf Digest. He was raised in Lake Elsinore, near Los Angeles, and attended Santiago High School.
Wise’s parents both worked in the financial services industry, and while Wise told Golf Digest they “didn’t endure outright deprivation,” his family also couldn’t afford to fly him around the country for junior golf events.
“We moved over from South Africa when I was a kid. We didn’t have much, kind of started from nothing,” he told reporters at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“Financial constraints prevented Wise from competing in many elite junior golf competitions, but he won the California Interscholastic Federation Central Division Individual Championship as a junior and caught the attention of Oregon coach Casey Martin by finishing third and fifth at the Junior World Championship in San Diego as a junior and senior in high school,” Golfweek wrote in 2016.
According to the Daily Emerald, Wise worked as a “cart guy,” cleaning and loaning golf carts to players, at Triology Golf Club and The Links at Summerly near his California home to help his parents pay for course fees, gear and private coaching.
His proud mom, Karla Kane, who has since remarried, told the Daily Emerald her son would go to the gym, then to school, to golf practice, to work and then back home to do school work before bed. “That’s his life,” Kane said. “Even now when he comes home … it’s the same thing. Every waking moment he is on that golf course if he can be. That’s where he’s happy.”
The family also spent some years living in Florida when he was a kid, but it was in California that his golf career took off.
“I’m definitely a California guy,” he told Fore Magazine in 2016. “That’s where my most important developmental years happened, that’s home.”
2. He Has 3 Younger Siblings, Including His Sister, Jena, Who Is a High School Tennis & Swimming Star
Wise has three younger siblings, including his sister, Jena Wise, who is a high school tennis and swimming star in Lake Elsinore. He has two half siblings, a brother and sister, according to Golfweek. Wise has posted photos on his Instagram of his siblings and they have been with him at several of his pro tournaments.
Wise has lived most of his life in California, but has made the trip back to South Africa. “We went back in 2008 so I remember that trip; it was fun. Other than that, I don’t remember much,” he told PGATour.com in 2017.
Wise now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, where his coach is based.
3. Wise, Whose Love of Golf Began When He Watched His Father Play as a Kid, Credits His Dad for Taking Him Out of the Game for 2 Years in Middle School
Wise’s love of golf started at a young age.
“The story is, I learned to walk with a golf club,” Wise told Golfweek in 2016. His mother, Karla Kane. seconded that story in an interview with the Daily Emerald, saying, “I swear to God, the golf club actually helped him learn how to walk.”
But his love for the sport waned during middle school as he started to get burnt out. His parents said they would drop him off at the golf course and see him fooling around and not taking practice seriously, according to the Daily Emerald. So his father, Marc Wise, decided to take Aaron out of tournaments for two years. He continued to play golf for fun and also focused on tennis, before returning to competitive golf and rediscovering his love for the sport.
“It definitely fired me up,” Wise told the Daily Emerald. “Taking something away makes you realize how much you miss it.”
He told PGATour.com, “I got serious into golf pretty early on. Through middle school my parents actually took me out of golf; they thought I was getting too complacent with it and wasn’t really enjoying it. They took me out of it for about a year-and-a-half. They didn’t let me play any competitive golf. I got really really good at tennis. I was one of the top kids in the state for tennis. I had to make a decision at that point. My tennis coach was saying I had to quit golf so I could play tennis full-time and go to college, while my golf coach was saying you need to quit tennis and put more time into golf (laughs). Golf has always been a part of my life since as soon as I can remember. As soon as I could walk, I was playing golf. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing golf. It was an easy decision to make. Probably freshman year of high school, I started taking it seriously and traveling for events.”
Wise told The Oregonian he appreciates what his father did for him by taking him away from the competitive tournaments.
“I think you can get stuck out there just playing golf and going through the motions, and that’s not what you want to do, especially if you want to be the best,” Wise told The Oregonian in 2015. “That kind of put fire back in me, kind of me made realize that, look, golf isn’t just something I can do everyday. It’s not a given. It’s something I need to work at, something I need to try my best.”
4. Wise’s Girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, Is a Member of the University of Oregon’s Acrobatics & Tumbling Team
Along with the support of his family, Aaron Wise also has his girlfriend, fellow University of Oregon athlete Reagan Trussell. She recently finished her senior season on the Ducks acrobatics and tumbling team, where she is a top/tumbler, according to the school’s website.
At the Wells Fargo Championship in May 2018, Wise said that after his strong third round he went back to where he was staying and talked on the phone with his girlfriend. Wise posted a photo with Trussell on Instagram in 2017 along with the caption, “Can’t believe i get to call this girl mine ?”
Like Wise, Trussell grew up in California, in Irvine, attending Woodbridge High School before moving on to the University of Oregon. Trussell won her first career individual event title during the NCATA Championships in April 2016, according to the Oregon website.
5. Wise’s Family Helped Him Make the Difficult Decision to Turn Pro, Instead of Trying for His Other Dream Job: Being a Lawyer Like Those on His Favorite Show, ‘Suits’
Wise had a difficult decision to make while he was at the University of Oregon studying prelaw and playing on the school’s national champion golf team. He could either continue his studies and pursue his other dream job, as a lawyer, or turn pro. After talking to his family and friends, he decided in 2016 to pursue a golf career.
“There wasn’t enough time in the day for me to do both,” he told the Quad-City Times in 2016. “School was just getting too hard, so I had to pick one or the other.”
Wise told Golfweek his love for law started from watching his favorite TV show, “Suits,” which starred Meghan Markle, and saw himself as a defense attorney. But his family and coaches helped him decide a pro golf career was the right move.
“You learn quickly, once out of school, to dedicate your life to golf, if it’s really what you want to be doing,” he told Fore Magazine in 2016. And that’s been a real positive for me; I’ve been through it. I’ve asked myself, ‘Is this really what you want to be doing?’ and the answer is, ‘Yes.’ I’m very passionate and I don’t mind putting in the work that it takes to be a top golfer at the top professional level.”
And it’s paid off so far. Wise, who lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nevada, has already earned more than $1.6 million as a pro. He was the runner-up at Wells Fargo on May 3-6, 2018 and has several top-50 finishes during his rookie season. Wise had one victory while playing on the Web.com Tour in 2017 and a victory on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada in 2016.
“It’s pretty crazy to see myself where I am now,” Wise told Golf Digest after his impressive third round at the Wells Fargo Championship. “I was playing high school golf four years ago. It’s pretty insane. It’s a ton to handle at my age, but I think I’ve done a great job. I’m learning.”