U.S. Open 2019: Gary Woodland has his own head cheerleader, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self

June 16, 2019
Oklahoma State v Kansas

Ed Zurga

U.S. Open leader Gary Woodland, among other attributes, has his own rooting section back home in Lawrence, Kan., including his own head cheerleader, a famous one, too.

“I watch every shot and every tournament I can,” University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said on Sunday morning. “I don’t want to miss out on anything.”

Self, one of college basketball’s most successful coaches, is an avid golfer and a close friend of Woodland’s. They have known each other virtually from the time Self became the Jayhawks’ coach in 2003. “Gary was a basketball player at Washburn when we played them, actually” Self said. “I tell him he didn’t even make our scout report.”

Woodland ended up transferring from Washburn to Kansas to play golf for the Jayhawks.

“The first time I played with him, we’re playing at LCC [Lawrence Country Club],” Self said. “And I knew he was long and all this stuff. They said he had the most clubhead speed ever recorded at one time. We’re playing number one, 360 [yards] all carry, up hill. He landed it on and made a 15-footer for two. I thought, ‘oh, my God.’

“He has incredible talent. He had to tighten some things up, particularly around the green. But he’s on the cusp, as we see it, as breaking in and becoming one of the top 10 American golfers on tour.”

Self has neither spoken with Woodland nor exchanged texts with him this week.

“I wouldn’t do that because of superstition,” Self said. “If things are going well I would leave him alone. I’ve talked to him at other times when he was in the fray, but this one though, no. I’m going to leave him alone.

“I was part of a group text with him last night. One of our boys, Greg Gurley [assistant athletics director at Kansas], sent a group text to Gary. He didn’t respond. That dude’s focused.

“We’re all so happy for him. As has been pretty well documented of late, he’s a terrific guy. i think the deal he did at the Waste Management Phoenix Open touched his heart. He’s a guy’s guy. Certainly, we’re all so happy and proud of him. He’s got an unbelievable wife. They’ve been through some tragedy in 2017, when his wife, Gabby was pregnant with twins and lost one of the babies. Now Gabby’s pregnant. It’s a prime time for him.”

Yet it will be a challenge for Self to see every shot in the final round today. “We have basketball camp going on," he said, "so I’ll be watching on my phone or I’ll sneak into my office. I watched every shot last night.”