The stretch of time from March to August was a long, unexpected off-season for athletes. During that time, with all the hectic noise and distractions caused by the pandemic, training and keeping focus could easily be lost, but not for junior golfer Chris Woollam.
The native of Hilton, South Africa, compared the lengthy off-season to a tournament, where his main goal is going into competition prepared and confident. He preached the importance of maintaining passion and love for the sport.
“You got to be doing this if you love it. Golf is not always easy, and sometimes it’s frustrating,” Woollam said.
Last week, LSU and the SEC released the schedule for fall golf. There will only be three tournaments, and only conference teams will compete. The first tournament will be held in Arkansas on Oct. 5-7. The tournament has not yet released an official comment on whether spectators will be allowed to attend.
Woollam is excited to get back to the course and explained why golf is such a unique sport that, while in a pandemic, can still be played.
“There is definitely a risk to playing," he said. "However, with golf you can mitigate that risk really well. We are really excited to have tournaments to look forward to, it makes [all the practice] worthwhile.”
This year will be Woollam’s third season swinging the clubs for the Tigers. He is coming off a fantastic sophomore year, in which he averaged 72.07 strokes per round and helped the team place in several key tournaments. Although the stats show on paper that it was a good year for Woollam, he remains adamant that he had left a few shots on the course and did not play his best due to a nerved back.
“It began with an awful start. I had a back injury from the summer, and I could not swing all that well. I got MRIs, took a month off and missed the second tournament,” Woollam said.
This year, Woollam has set his goals for making the team's short list of travelling players who will compete in all three tournaments. This year, that will be a difficult task. Two key players are set to return, Phillip Barbaree and Trey Winstead, leaving the other eight teammates battling for three spots. The team only travels with five players.
Woollam is used to the pressure, from being recruited by LSU months prior to his freshman year, to overcoming a major injury and competing in several competitions. He is soft-spoken, but he is determined, a natural leader that any team would appreciate. The golf world should not be surprised if Woollam has a breakout season this year and continues to improve through his senior year.
“You can not go from zero to hero overnight," he said. "One step every day, you have to keep plugging away at it, and you have to trust in everything you have done.”
Off the course, Woollam has also recorded tremendous success. He was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Woollam is studying finance after recently switching his major from accounting.
Woollam acknowledged the cutthroat competitiveness of trying to become a PGA professional and said that he would hope to be able to use his finance degree from LSU if golf did not work out.
“It would be in the business world. If I did not go pro, I will probably get my MBA either here or somewhere else.”
The international student is adjusting well to life here in Louisiana. Although his parents and younger sister are still in South Africa, they are still connected through FaceTime calls weekly. The South African said that he would watch football highlight clips as a high schooler, and to see a highlight of a season last year in person he was stunned. Woollam is also enjoying the Louisianan cuisine.
“The food is great," he said. "But if you get too much of it, the trainers will get on us."
This upcoming season will be unlike any other, with many new regulations and precautions. But similarly to years past, the same hard work will be rewarded. Although Woollam is realistic about his future, he has a burning passion and love for golf.
“You cannot do it if you do not have the hunger and the desire," he said. "You have to love it."