It’s been like going down memory lane for Dylan Wu.
The Oregon native returns to the Panther Creek Country Club on Thursday for the Korn Ferry Tour’s fifth annual Lincoln Land Championship presented by LRS.
This is the site of his first big break.
After participating in Wednesday’s LRS Pro-Am tournament, Wu said he could recall all of the shots and moments from last year when he finished tournament runner up against Xinjun Zhang.
He vividly remembers the birdie on No. 18 and the ensuing three-hole playoff against Zhang, who went on to win the tournament and become the No. 1 golfer on what was then the Web.com Tour’s regular season points standings.
Wu may have lipped out a birdie putt on the first playoff hole to win, but he took the loss in stride and hasn’t looked back since then.
“I learned a lot from that,” Wu said. “I was really happy how I played in the playoff. It’s good to be back here. This is my second year on the Tour but most of the tournaments I’ve played so far this year I haven’t really played on a golf course that I’ve had a lot of success on. It’s definitely nice coming back here.”
Dylan Wu jokes with his caddie and former Northwestern University teammate Harley Abrams as they approach the 18th green for the first playoff with Xinjun Zhang, left, during the fourth round of Web.com Tour’s Lincoln Land Championship presented by LRS Sunday, June 16, 2019. Wu and Zhang tied the first two playoff holes before Zhang won on the third. [Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register]
That week was a true whirlwind. Last year Wu came off the alternate list and didn’t find out he was going to play in the Lincoln Land Championship until the middle of Monday preceding the tournament. He subsequently had to take a red-eye flight from Phoenix to Chicago where a friend provided a lift to central Illinois for a Tuesday morning practice round. He slept half the day Wednesday and simply just tried to make the cut during the first two rounds.
He did just that at 1 under after two rounds and took off from there. He turned in a 6 under 65 in the Saturday round and then 8 under in the last round. Wu parred all three of the playoff holes while Zhang clinched the win with a birdie on the final playoff hole.
“It’s definitely cool to be back here and see the shots and play the holes again,” Wu said.
It was just his second appearance on the Tour. He made his debut earlier that year in May at the Knoxville Open where he missed the cut.
“This gave me pretty much everything when I finished second here,” Wu said. “It gave me pretty close to full status on the Korn Ferry. Just having the second year under me has been great just having a lot more experience and getting a lot more comfortable.“
Wu no longer has to wait for a tournament invite as an alternate and has the luxury of picking and choosing where he wants to compete. Wu currently ranks No. 11 on the season points standings and has cracked the top 10 five times this year on the PGA’s second-tier level, including second place at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay in January.
“It’s been a good year so far,” Wu said. “We have about five events left to play this season, but it’s been a successful season and I’ve learned a lot from last year after this event. It’s just been a lot of good golf and I kind of have to credit this as the starting point.”
Even though he is in the Top 25, Wu will not be able to graduate onto the PGA Tour until next year like everyone else.
“It’s kind of a bummer nobody is graduating to the PGA Tour, but it’s been a great year,” Wu said. “I’ve had a lot of top 10 finishes and a lot of good results. The next thing on my goal list is to get a win. I was really close here last year. It’s been a good year so far for me. No matter where you are, if you are in the Top 25 money list, you have to be doing something right.”
Wu just needs to get his first career win on the Korn Ferry Tour. Wu said he feels confident coming back to a familiar region not just because of this tournament.
Wu graduated from Northwestern University in 2018 with a degree — his contingency plan in case his professional golf career didn’t pan out.
Golf is a major staple in the Wu family in Medford, Oregon. His twin brothers, Jeremy and Josh, played NCAA Division I golf at Valparaiso and Air Force, respectively. Wu’s younger sister, Kaylee, is currently a sophomore on the Lipscomb women’s golf team as well.
Wu anticipates plenty of low rounds this week with soft greens and hospitable weather expected on the par-71 course designed by Hale Irwin.
Anders Albertson, the 2018 tournament champion, is part of the first group at 6:50 a.m. while Wu begins at 12:20 p.m.
Perhaps Panther Creek can provide another watershed moment for Wu.
Contact Bill Welt: email@example.com, Twitter.com/BillWelt