Chez Reavie was born in Wichita in 1981. But he isn't the most famous Wichita golfer.
Few even know he was born in the River City (his family moved to Arizona in the 90's and attended Arizona State).
No, the honor goes to Derby resident, a certain Albert Woody Austin II or, Woody Austin, as we know him. The 1995 PGA Rookie of the Year won 3-times on tour and helped the 2007 President Cup team to victory and will no doubt battle for the largest gallery during the Wichita Open. (In the interest of full disclosure, Woody is a Florida native but has a Kansas mailing address. It still counts.)
But sadly, Woody is often more remembered by fans (casual and fervent) as the guy who beat his putter against his head after missing a short one, wearing quirky shirts on course, taking Tiger to the brink at the 2007 PGA Championship finishing second and falling into the water while trying to hit a shot in the 2007 President's Cup (they gave him swim goggles to wear in his singles match the next day).
And in all that, Woody seems to take it in stride.
I’ve never met Woody outside of a camera lens or a microphone but he is regarded as one of the nicest guys on Tour. He seems to "get it." Let's be honest - it's golf. This isn't life or death, the U.N. isn't intervening if something goes wrong and it isn't even on the consciousness of most of our politicians (calls have been made for President Obama to make an appearance at this year's U.S. Open but he is traveling abroad right now and likely won't show). Remember the goggles incident at the President's Cup? It was light hearted (at a tournament that is a step down to the Ryder Cup) but he had fun with it, and it helped the team to victory!
That's what golf should be about. Is there a time to bear down, not back and forth with your playing partner, and get into his head while you zone in and starting firing darts. That's the golf I like but there is a time and a place for that. That begins Thursday but anyone who got out on Monday for the Shootout got to see Woody playing the role of Sinatra and Dean Martin on the links.
Now speaking of the time to get after it; Woody said this after his runner up finish at the 2007 PGA Championship about Tiger:
"I went over his round and over my round, and I outplayed him from tee to green... Seven shots I gave up in one round. A person in my position cannot give that man that much cushion... I don't think anybody plays any better than I do when I'm on. I know that's crazy, but I can hit any shot anybody in the world can hit. But it's hard to do when you're afraid of it — and that's the fight I have every day."
He was right. At that time Tiger could hit the ball onto a rooftop and still make par (he could even make birdie sometimes...). Woody is a down the fairway shooter (and a straight shooter off the course). Tee to green, his game is flawless and he proved it in that tournament (also proved it the 3-times he won on the PGA). And now he has to prove it on the Nationwide Tour, at least this week. He lost his PGA Tour card last season but has enough exempt status to stick around in 2011 but it hasn’t been the best. He has made 3 cuts in 8 events this season. It will get turned around but he is getting up in age and will be eligible for the Champions Tour in 3 years. He said he feels like he is playing well; well enough to get out of whatever funk he is in.
It will come. Golf comes and goes. Steve Stricker is the highest ranked American player right now but at one point, he lost his game completely. Padraig Harrington almost quit the game altogether before he won the British Open (he won it the next year, too). If Woody has a couple good rounds in two days and a weekend push and he could be close to the top of the leader board, or at least putting a scare into the young guns on the course. I think that's what he hopes to happen this weekend; play well, build some confidence and get back out there to dropping 62's like we remember in 2007.
Woody lost his card once before so the bounce back will happen. Hopefully it happens before our eyes this week.