Wood has support system, winning experience to succeed
July 10, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Hayden Wood played alongside Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland at Oklahoma State University. (Courtesy of Oklahoma State University Athletics)
CALEDON, Ont. – The first time Hayden Wood saw Matthew Wolff’s swing was on video, and like many, he didn’t know how to react.
“We saw it and we were like ‘what?’” says Wood with a smile from the Osprey Valley Open. “(Wolff) came on a recruiting trip to (Oklahoma State University) as a junior in high school and he shot 66. Just walked out and shot 66. He was pretty good.”
Wood, who graduated from OSU this year alongside Wolff, Viktor Hovland, and a handful of others who are on their own paths to the PGA TOUR – although not as rapidly as Wolff, who won last week’s 3M Open on the TOUR – has been surrounded by golf talent his whole life.
Now he’s trying to prove he can do things his own way as his professional career gets started on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada.
Wood grew up playing baseball and only picked up golf at 12. His father, Willie Wood, won on the PGA TOUR and twice on PGA TOUR Champions, but never forced golf on him. Instead he played baseball with Nick Heinen – who is on the Korn Ferry Tour now – and it was Heinen who he ended up going to the golf course with.
The pair would end up playing together at OSU, but Wood says he learned much from his father, as he was growing up and taking golf more seriously. Now they have a call after every round and mix in a few laughs, too.
After the second round at the Windsor Championship, for example, Wood called his father and said his course management was “just so bad.” His father responded by saying they’ve been working on course management since Wood was a kid – how could it be so bad?
“It’s cool how our relationship has gone from coach and player … obviously it’s a father-son relationship but on the golf course it’s gone from coach to player and now we’re equal on the golf course,” says Wood. “We talk about things, versus him talking to me about things. It’s been really cool to see.”
His father, Wood says, has been a great ear to bend. He was national player of the year in college, and then went on to win multiple times at the highest level.
“Throughout all the ups and downs with golf, it’s just nice to have someone who knows what it’s like,” says Wood. “To have someone who lives under the same roof, it’s been great.”
Since Wood’s father also played golf at OSU, it had been a longtime dream for Wood to tee it up as a Cowboy. He casually lists off names of guys who he crossed paths with while at school and it’s a who’s-who of golf’s next wave.
Kristoffer Ventura (just won on the Korn Ferry Tour), Sam Stevens (PGA TOUR Latinoamerica), Wolff and Hovland, Kevin Tway (2018 PGA TOUR winner), Wyndham Clark (PGA TOUR member), and Jordan Niebrugge (Mackenzie Tour winner/British Open Low Amateur) are just some of the guys he’s had to compete with for spots on OSU’s starting lineup.
And while Wood hasn’t yet found the success of his longtime teammates – he says although he’s missed the cut at all three of the tournaments he’s played this year, he feels about his game and isn’t down on himself at all as he’s learning lots, having never been to Canada before – the support system he has is undeniable.
“It’s a great dynamic. It’s a very tough dynamic. There are 10 guys who want to play and have aspirations to play on the PGA TOUR, but only five can play. It’s very tough for guys. You can be one of the best players in the country but not the best on the team,” says Wood. “It’s a crazy thing, really. When you get on a team like that, your ego can get checked a bit. But you’re around such good players all the time.”
One of the players was of course Wolff, who helped lead the team (including Wood) to the national championship in 2018 before winning the individual title in 2019. Austin Eckroat, another member of the OSU squad and a likely member of the Walker Cup team for the U.S. later this year, showed his teammates Wolff’s swing before he came to visit.
Wood says the big difference for Wolff was the opportunity he received at OSU to play and practice as much as he wanted – quite the change from living in L.A.
“He went on to come into his own at OSU. Our practice areas are great. It was tough for him, being in L.A., it was tough getting on courses. You don’t have as much time,” says Wood. “He was able to get a little more time at the golf course, and he has an unbelievable amount of talent. When you combine all that, it turns into a TOUR winner at age 20.”
Although Wood is still working towards that goal, he’s got the support system to back him up, the winning experience to make some noise, and the drive to succeed.