Tip of the editorial cap to Gary Woodland, the Kansan who won the U.S. Open golf tournament over the weekend. It’s one of the biggest events in golf, and his win makes Mr. Woodland an immediate Kansas sports hall-of-famer.
We’re proud of him.
Given that he grew up just down the road in Topeka, and graduated from Shawnee Heights High School, it’s almost a local story for those of us in the Manhattan area. Some of us, or our kids or grandkids, competed against him in high school basketball or golf, or else on the regional golf circuit when he was just getting started.
He’s a Topeka guy. Yes, yes, he’s also KU guy, and so he’s not quite the hometown hero that some of us in the Manhattan area would like. He likes to display a Jayhawk. The rival university down the river is justifiably proud of him, and claiming him as their own. More power to them.
But let’s keep in mind that he’s a Kansan, like the rest of us. Shortly after he hugged his parents, he hugged an unidentified guy wearing a Shawnee Heights ballcap. He grew up playing the same events that Manhattan kids play.
And so he can serve as a role model, or at least an icon. Kids from our area — the kids shooting hoops in the north gym at Manhattan High, the kids working on their debate files in A Hall at that high school, the kids in the choir room, the kids playing regional golf at the Topeka Country Club, and so on and so forth — they can be the best in the world.
Mr. Woodland proved that. He has been ahead before in big tournaments and hasn’t come away with a major title. This time, with some of the biggest names in professional golf bearing down on him, he thrived under the pressure. A long fairway shot to the front of the green, a gutsy chip within inches of the cup and a 30-foot birdie putt — all on the back nine on the final day — are now the stuff of legend.
Mr. Woodland said the key was learning to embrace the pressure, and to enjoy that moment. He also said something that local kids can keep in mind: He just always believed he was going to succeed — he always knew he was going to be a winning professional athlete.
Not all of us have the gifts Mr. Woodland has, phsyically or psychologically. But like him, we can believe in ourselves and our ability to succeed.
We congratulate Mr. Woodland. Well done. And thanks for the Kansan pride.