PGA TOUR UNIVERSITY
'Why wouldn’t I go back?'
University of South Carolina standout Jamie Wilson returns for final season as a Gamecock
October 13, 2020
By Emily Tillo, PGATOUR.COM
- October 13, 2020
- Jamie Wilson is returning for his final year at the University of South Carolina.
Jamie Wilson was four when he received his first lesson.
“The woman told me after I made one swing that I should stick to playing golf,” Wilson said.
Wilson heeded her advice, and you could say it’s worked out for him.
The 5th year senior at the University of South Carolina led the Gamecocks in virtually every statistical category during the shortened 2019-20 campaign and was one of only eight golfers in his conference to earn First-Team All-SEC honors. He also earned his first All-America honors after being named to PING’s Honorable Mention All-American team. In seven starts last season, he posted two top-5, three top-10 and five top-20 finishes.
Perhaps golf initially chose Wilson, but it didn’t take long for the feeling to become mutual. He still played other sports growing up, but there was just “something about golf.”
“I don't think there's anybody in the world that loves the game more than I do,” Wilson said. “Once you choose golf and really invest in golf, golf and life become one in the same.”
Combine Wilson’s relentless pursuit of the game with an incredible support system, and that’s one strong recipe for success.
Wilson’s grandfather, David Scott, helped instill in his grandson an unwavering passion for the game. During Wilson’s junior golf days, Scott – a former Vice President at Ford Motor Company who still plays golf three times a week – was essentially Wilson’s unofficial ‘business manager,’ signing his grandson up for tournaments and taking care of the logistics.
Wilson calls his grandfather “his inspiration and “the greatest man I’ve ever met in my life.”
Wilson’s mother, Ginny, has played an equally instrumental role in her son’s journey. A strong athlete in her own right, she passed along her competitive nature to her son. While Wilson jokingly admits that she “gets a little stressed out on the golf course,” she’s been her son’s “biggest cheerleader.”
“My mom has always put everyone else first. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate everything she’s done,” Wilson said.
Wilson grew up in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, just two hours south of the University of South Carolina’s campus in Columbia.
USC’s Head Coach Bill McDonald was the very first college coach to watch Wilson play, and when Wilson took an unofficial visit to campus during his sophomore year, that was it.
“Everyone here is so deeply tied to what the school is all about, and when I got on campus, I could feel the family atmosphere and the warmth,” Wilson said. “Everyone was so excited to be here and knew they made the right choice.”Jamie Wilson at the 2019 Tavistock Collegiate Invitational. (Courtesy of the University of South Carolina)
The USC support system was exactly what Wilson was looking for – an extension of his family. Plus, as Wilson continued the pursuit of his lifelong dream of playing professionally, he knew McDonald could help him get to where he needed to go. Following a very successful collegiate career at Georgia Tech – where McDonald was the runner-up at the 1988 NCAA Championship and a two-time All-American – he played professionally worldwide for several years before becoming a teaching professional and coach.
“He knows what it takes to be successful because he's done it himself,” Wilson said.
A career of ‘firsts’ and one more round as a Gamecock
Since joining the Gamecock squad in 2016, Wilson and McDonald have accomplished several firsts, including the team’s first SEC Match Play appearance during Wilson’s freshman year, as well as a new team 54-hole scoring record at the 2019 J.T. Poston Invitational (where Wilson fired a career-best score of 64 in the second round).
And then there was another first – the cancellation of the spring season because of a global pandemic.
Wilson and his teammates were getting some final prep in at a course in South Carolina the day before the squad was set to travel to Florida for the Valspar Collegiate Invitational. Cell phones weren’t allowed on the course, so Wilson and his teammates enjoyed hours of solitude and peace out on the links before their world seemingly turned upside down.
As the team left the course, “Coach just told us we were done,” Wilson said.
“We didn’t know what the next steps would be.”
Wilson’s final season as a Gamecock was over. No chance to set more records and notch more firsts. No opportunity to compete as a Gamecock one final time.
After a few days of letting things settle in, Wilson came to the realization that “the best thing I could do was practice as hard as I could. I didn’t know if I was going to get another year.”
He had every intention to turn professional following his collegiate career and was planning on competing in Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Q-School later that spring, so “sitting around and feeling sorry for myself” was simply never an option.
However, a few weeks later, along came another first. The NCAA announced at the end of March that spring-sport student-athletes could receive an additional year of eligibility.
“I had a big decision in front of me,” Wilson said.
After a week of internal debate, Wilson said it hit him all at once:
“Why wouldn't I go back?”
Another year to fine tune his game.
Another year to practice with teammates who “make me better and push me every day,” Wilson said.
Little did Wilson know that shortly after he opted to return for a fifth year, he would receive even more validation that he made the right choice.
On June 1, the PGA TOUR announced the debut of PGA TOUR University, a program that provides a pathway for elite collegiate golfers as they begin their journeys into the professional ranks.
“It’s huge,” said Wilson. “It’s a path for successful collegiate golfers in having a chance to play on a major Tour right out of college. It gives me all the more reason to practice as hard as I can this year.”
As Wilson prepares for his final round at the University of South Carolina, he’s been able to spend some time with fellow Gamecock and PGA TOUR winner Wesley Bryan. The 2017 RBC Heritage champion moved back to Columbia in 2019 and has since taken Wilson and several other teammates under his wing.
“I try to see how he does things and how I can do things better based on what he does,” Wilson said. “He's grinded his whole life. He's one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met.”
Bryan’s nonlinear path to the PGA TOUR winner’s circle has given Wilson even more hope and motivation that he can follow in Bryan’s footsteps.
“Just seeing his story through the years, his success, the adversity that he’s fought,” Wilson said, have made him realize, “I can do this. I can win on the PGA TOUR.”