Story by WADE EVANSON, Pamplin Media Group
In his first full season a PGA Tour card is within his reach
If you look at Dylan Wu’s Korn Ferry Tour profile, you’ll find some interesting things.
He owned a set of Snoopy golf clubs, played more than a half-decade of hockey, and aspires to work in wealth management. But while an early affinity for the Peanuts, Canada’s Winter National Sport, and finance, don’t kid yourself, Wu is a golfer — and a damn good one.
In just his second year of professional golf, the Medford, Oregon native finds himself in the thick of the hunt for his PGA Tour card. Following the TPC San Antonio Challenge at the Canyons, July 9-12, the 2018 Northwestern University graduate ranked fifth on the Korn Ferry Tour’s season points standings, with three top-5s, four top-10s, and six top-25s in 11 events this season. He ranks ninth in driving accuracy, 14th in greens in regulation percentage, and eighth in scoring average (69.08). So if you’re in the market for a financial advisor, you may want to look elsewhere for the next couple of decades.
“Wealth management is definitely my back-up plan,” Wu said with a chuckle. “If I can play golf for the rest of my life, that’s the plan. And if I could make a nice amount of money doing it and have other people manage it, that’d be even better.”
Wu started playing golf as a toddler when his dad was learning the game. At the age of 10, he got into ice hockey, and for the next five years, played travel hockey across the Pacific Northwest. Wu later captained the team at North Medford High School, where he earned the team’s best defenseman award three times. But while good on the ice, he was great on the links, where he led his St. Mary’s (Medford) squad to three 3A/2A/1A state team titles and won individual state championships in each of his last two seasons. From there, it was off to Northwestern, where his success continued to the tune of a first-team all-Big Ten selection his senior season and a spot on the Ping Midwest All-Region team. He also led the Wildcats in five different statistical categories during his final season in Evanston, including a 72.19 stroke average and most birdies. And now? He’s got 25 Korn Ferry Tour events under his belt, recently bought a house in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is all-systems-go in his quest for the PGA Tour.
“This is what I want to be doing, and I feel like this year I’m more comfortable and getting better all the time.”
After earning his way onto the Korn Ferry Tour in June 2019 following a second-place finish at the Lincoln Land Championship in Springfield, Illinois, where he lost in a playoff to Xinjun Zhang, Wu finished 72nd in the final standings. He's earned full privileges on the tour this season, of which he’s made the most of. He attributes the bulk of his heightened success this season to experience but also cites a “gritty mentality” that can often be the difference between a “good” and “bad” week.
“I need to be as strong as I can mentally,” Wu said. “The goal on the Korn Ferry Tour is to get to the PGA Tour, and every shot and every point matters so much. So often, the weeks where you don’t have your best, but you’re still able to finish in the top-10 or top-20, or even just make the cut, can be the most satisfying and really make a difference.
“You’re playing for a living and playing for your livelihood, so every shot does matter.”
The 23-year-old also cited off-the-course duties as a necessary adjustment for relatively new professionals like himself. College golfers bear no responsibility for coordinating travel, managing expenses, or any other myriad of obligations thrust upon young pros. Consequently, getting comfortable off the course can often correlate to future success on it.
“You’ve got to manage your travel, manage your rest, map-out the course and figure out a game plan,” he said, “And learning that stuff is a process, but it definitely adds up.”
Despite his age and the relative hurdles that come with youthful inexperience, some of Wu’s peers' recent success has only aided in his belief in his chances of making it to and eventually succeeding on the PGA Tour. Twenty-three-year-old Collin Morikawa has already won twice on the PGA Tour, 21-year-old Matthew Wolff once, and 22-year-old Viktor Hovland has a win and more than $2 million in earnings since turning professional last summer. Wu has taken notice of their success, and it has and continues to fuel him as he chases his dream.
“It’s nice to see those guys you’ve played with do well because you’ve played with them before, and you’ve beat them before,” Wu said. “The reality is that we all can play good golf, but some guys’ bad golf is better than other guys’ bad golf, which is where we’re all trying to get.”
In addition to the mental aspect of the game, Wu also continues to work on the physical aspect. He still works with Northwestern Director of Golf and Player Development, Pat Goss, on his short game, and recently started working with Montreal instructor Shauheen Nakhjavani in hopes of improving and already impressive tee-to-green game — and it’s paid off.
“I wanted to be able to hit the ball a little higher with my longer clubs and control my spin into firm greens,” Wu said. “It’s really helped, and I think that combined with having a better short game, I have a more complete game.”
And will that equate at the Winco Foods Portland Open? There’s no way of knowing, but Wu loves the course, believes it sets up nicely for his game, and is looking forward to representing the state of Oregon the best he can when he tees it up for the first round on Aug. 6 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course in North Plains.
“I love that golf course, and if you ask the guys on tour, most would tell you they’d put it in their top-3 courses we play,” Wu said. “It’s a course where you need all facets of your game in order to play well, and I definitely want to play well for Oregon.”