Golf

Gary Woodland, from Washburn basketball player to U.S. Open champion

Former Washburn basketball coach Bob Chipman was delighted but not surprised to see Gary Woodland bury his long putt on the 18th hole to clinch the 119th U.S. Open championship.

“That was a three-pointer from deep with the game on the line,” Chipman said. “He could always hit big shots.”

Woodland played as a freshman for Chipman’s Ichabods in 2002-03 before transferring to Kansas, where he played golf for the Jayhawks.

Woodland was solid basketball player at Shawnee Heights and for one season at Washburn. The team was terrific, a MIAA champion that finished 26-6, a season that opened with an exhibition game at Kansas. Woodland and teammates matched up against a KU team of Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich that would reach the NCAA championship game.

In his post-match press conference Sunday, Woodland referred to that game when asked about the decision to switch from basketball to golf.

“That decision got forced on me,” Woodland said. “I had to guard Kirk Hinrich, and I realized, I’m going to have to do something else.”

At Washburn, Woodland knocked down 38 of 120 three-pointers. In a late-season home game against Northwest Missouri, Washburn rallied to win on Woodland’s five second-half three-pointers.

But he wasn’t just a shooter. Chipman recalled after a disappointing loss challenging his freshman during a practice. Are any of you going to take a charge, get a floor burn?

In the next game, Woodland dived into the crowd for a save and broke a finger.

“Whenever he misses a short putt, I take the blame,” Chipman joked.

After the season, Chipman discussed the future with Woodland and his family and knew the better opportunity was in golf.

“I was pretty much expecting that,” said Chipman, who concluded his MIAA Hall of Fame career in 2017 with 808 career victories. “Even then, he could hit a golf ball farther than anyone in the world.

“We knew he was going to be good. Win a U.S. Open good? He is now.”



Related stories from Wichita Eagle

  Comments