PGA Tour Rookie Chris Wilson on Making It to the Big Leagues, the Grooves Debate and the Dave Matthews Band
By Stephanie Wei under General

My friend Cameron Levy, who is an MBA student at M.I.T. and avid golfer, caught up with his old golfing buddy Chris Wilson from Dublin, OH, earlier this week. Chris is now living the dream, but certainly had to earn it. After playing on the Hooters Tour for a few years, last December he finished 12th at the final stage of Q school to earn his PGA Tour card. With three starts on tour this year, he’s made one cut at the Bob Hope Classic and narrowly missed at the other two. Read on to see what Chris has to say — particularly his novel approach for determining his 2010 schedule.

Now that you are in the big leagues, are you doing anything differently?

Chris: A lot of guys will get to the Tour and think they need to up their game to the next level and change things, but you really don’t.  I’ve talked to a lot of players who have been in this situation before to get some advice on this.  I’m just trying to do what I’ve always done and do what got me here.  It’s not easy either, with all these other variables changing around me.  There are a lot more fans here than there are at the mini-tour events.

Last year you played in Jack’s event, the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, OH, where you grew up.  How did that experience help you at Q school and your first couple events on tour?

Chris: Yeah, I give that a ton of credit for preparing me for Q school and the tour.  I was so nervous on the first tee there, and to be honest, I haven’t been that nervous at any event since.  Part of it was the Memorial is just such a big event.  A lot of the pros will say it’s right up there near the majors.  That event helped me tremendously, though.  It gave me the confidence I needed, and the last little push to get me truly believing that I belong out there.

I have to ask you about the new policy on grooves.  How has that affected your game?  Have you given any consideration to switching to the Ping Eye 2 like Phil did?

Chris: With the irons, I don’t notice much of a difference.  The biggest place I notice a difference is pitching and chipping from tighter lies.  The ball comes out a little higher and has a little more run-out.  I’ve given it zero consideration.  Number one, I can’t switch because of my contract with Cleveland.  And number two, I’ve talked to a few guys and it’s only 2 or 3 RPM’s more, so I think it’s pretty negligible.  Also, it’s a specific rule in place to change the shape of the groove.  I don’t necessarily think playing those wedges is the right thing to do, just in the spirit of the game.  This game is one of honor and integrity, so finding a loophole is questionable although it’s certainly not “cheating” since they are legal.

Have you set any goals for this year, or are you just taking it one week at a time?

Chris: When I was at Northwestern, my coach, Pat Goss, really instilled in me that the best approach is to focus on the process rather than the results.  The results are really just a byproduct of improving your weaknesses and maintaining your strengths.  I’m just going to try to get better every week.

What’s the coolest part about being on Tour?

Chris: The food.  I don’t know if it’s the coolest thing, but the food is awesome.  Playing with all the guys is great.  Every week is exciting.  You really get treated like a celebrity out here.

About 15 years ago you helped me burn my first CD.  I remember you gave me a few good rap songs to include on it.  Not long after that you told me that you “found Dave.”  Have you “found” anyone else or are you still listening to Dave Matthews?

Chris: I’m still a huge Dave Matthews Band fan.  I got all kinds of his live albums.  They just released their 2010 summer schedule, and I’m trying to work my golf schedule around where they’re going to be.  I’ve also started listening to country music a bit, kind of a 180 from rap.  But every now and then I’ll listen to some rap, maybe if there are beers involved or something.

Thanks to both Cameron and Chris for their time!