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Archive for Sunday, January 26, 2014

Column: Buddies at LCC predict big year for Gary Woodland

January 26, 2014

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Gary Woodland badly pulled his drive into the hazard left of the No. 17 fairway en route to a double bogey on the hole for the second day in a row.

There went Woodland’s realistic chances of winning the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. That’s when the crowd at Lawrence Country Club watching on two TV’s began to disperse.

Woodland, a passionate supporter of the Kansas University basketball team, joined LCC last summer and played about 20 rounds of golf between tour stops. He has residences in Orlando, Fla., and Lawrence.

Leading by a stroke heading into the final round and sharing the lead with three holes remaining, Woodland fell short, like so many of his lag putts during the day and dropped from a tie for the lead to a tie for 10th.

His late fade down the leaderboard did nothing to dull local golfers’ enthusiasm about his prospects for making this his season on the PGA Tour.

Jason Seeman, a Kansas City resident and Bushnell big-shot, and Wes Lynch of Lawrence, who works for Jayhawk IMG Marketing, stopped on their way out the pro-shop door to talk about their friend.

“It’s kind of nice to see his short game improve dramatically,” Lynch said.

Woodland has been working with Northwestern University golf coach Pat Goss on his short game and with Claude Harmon III, Butch Harmon’s son, on his swing. He also receives counseling from a sports psychologist and has a revered veteran caddy, Tony Navarro, on his bag.

“I think he’s setting himself up for one heck of a year,” Seeman said. “He’s in the best shape of his life. His short game has come so far. And Claude’s got him with what they call a hold-off fade. He holds onto the club a little bit longer.”

Lynch and Seeman will be among a group of Woodland’s friends who will make the trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., to watch him play in the Phoenix Waste Management Open, which tees off Thursday. The event is noted for having the wildest galleries in the history of the sport.

“We’ll be there to support him,” Seeman said.

By that he meant heckle him. That’s what galleries do at the four-day party.

Here’s how Seeman supported his friend last year: He dropped to the ground and told marshalls, “I got hit by the ball. Woodland’s shot hit me.”

And: “Hey, Woodland, I’m the one who should be out there, not you.”

Woodland might have benefitted from a little bit of friendly support of that nature Sunday. He looked a little tight at times on his way to a 74, the final round of a tourney he started with a 65-73-70.

Of Woodland’s rounds at LCC, Seeman said, “I think it’s a good time for him to get away from it. He likes being around friends. We treat him like a friend. I think when you’re out there on tour, everyone’s bowing down to you.”

With Chris Thompson, who earned conditional Web.com Tour status, and several other former KU golfers on hand, Woodland never lacks for competition at LCC.

“He loves the course,” Seeman said. “He likes being back in Lawrence, and he loves the greens out here.”

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