Former Team USA member Brandon Wu has seen the peaks and valleys in golf. And in 2019 there were a lot of peaks.
First came the All-American honors at Stanford University and a team national championship as a senior. Then came qualifying berths into the U.S. Open and the Open Championship that summer, including a T35 finish at Pebble Beach capped by receiving his diploma on the 18th green. Add that to a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, and Wu had a dream year as an amateur golfer.
But after turning pro in October, the rigors of starting a career in golf set in. He earned conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour but failed to earn a start until July, toiling through six unsuccessful Monday qualifier starts.
But when the opportunity finally presented itself, Wu took advantage. He finished T9 in his first start of the year in July to earn improved status, and a month later was standing at the podium celebrating his first professional victory on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“It was just validation,” reflected Wu. “I feel like I’ve been close, and I’ve had some good finishes, but to get that win was just like finally getting to the top of the mountain. Finally, something to hang my hat on. And obviously I’m hoping this is just the beginning of my journey, but that was still such a cool milestone to reach…Going through the Monday qualifiers and going through not having status makes the win that much sweeter.”
Wu won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance at the end of August, a performance that would have immediately earned him his PGA TOUR card in any other year. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic delaying TOUR promotion until fall 2021, Wu instead is satisfied knowing that he will have a place to play in the coming months.
“Playing for your job is a newfound pressure,” said Wu. “When you’re playing amateur golf it is intense, but it’s not like this where it is literally my job. I feel like every year a couple of guys are able to play well and play themselves into great status and I’ve been that type of guy this year.”
With the win, Wu leaped to fourth in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings just a month after having little status. The meteoric rise earned him a start in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in his hometown of Scarsdale, New York, as well as starts in PGA TOUR additional events in the 2020-21 season.
Even after his dramatic last six weeks, Wu still takes time to reflect fondly on his experience as a member of Team USA at the 2019 Pan American Games.
“That was one of the absolute coolest experiences of my life,” said Wu. “It’s special getting to play team golf because it’s such an individual sport and there are not that many opportunities for it. Getting to represent Team USA and go down for the Pan American Games and see all of the different athletes and Olympians was so cool. It was awesome to represent something bigger than ourselves. Coming out with the gold for Team USA and standing on the podium next to your teammates, that was pretty special.”