Noah Woolsey entered his junior golf season at Washington riding high after coming off some successful tournaments in the summer.
But who could have predicted this?
Woolsey, who had two top-10 finishes in his first two seasons, won three of the five events the Huskies played this fall. He became the first UW player to win three times in the fall portion of the golf year.
The spring season is much bigger, with all the top events including the Pac-12 and NCAA championships, but Woolsey and the Huskies will enter that portion with great confidence, with the Huskies winning as a team in the three events that Woolsey won.
“Starting off as hot as the team has and I have has caught me a little off guard, but at the same time it’s kind of what you play for and expect yourself to do,” said Woolsey, from Pleasanton, Calif. “I played good over the summer and you kind of turn a corner, I think.”
The Huskies opened the season in September with the Husky Invitational at the Gold Mountain Olympic Course in Bremerton. The final day was canceled, with UW declared the winner after two rounds and Woolsey tying for the title with three others, including teammate Jan Schneider.
“Once you get a win under your belt you get so much confidence, and I kind of went off that,” Woolsey said. “You get a deeper belief that you can compete against the best players.”
If that win might have a bit of an asterisk, there was nothing fluky about his win in the Old Town Intercollegiate in North Carolina when he won by four shots in a 75-player field. In mid-October in the Georgetown Invitational in Maryland, he tied for first with teammate Henry Lee in a 72-player field.
“It’s quite spectacular really,” said UW coach Alan Murray of Woolsey’s fall season. “I will never be surprised by Noah’s success. He is really smart, has a high golf IQ and is a good kid who handles the competitive ups and downs of golf really well. For anyone to win three of four events is surprising, but he is capable of it and he obviously did it. Really happy for him.”
Woolsey said there is nothing spectacular about his game, but he does everything well and has worked hard on the mental aspect and getting the best score possible out of each round.
The team is also excelling, and the three wins have moved the Huskies to No. 16 in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings and to No. 17 in the Golfstat rankings. It is the kind of success Woolsey envisioned when he was recruited by Matt Thurmond, who built UW into one of the best programs in the country.
Thurmond left UW, but Woolsey came to Seattle anyway, joining Murray.
Woolsey was second on the team in scoring as a freshman and first last spring as a sophomore. But the Huskies struggled as a program, failing to reach the NCAA tournament both seasons after years of being a contender.
That has made the success this season more gratifying.
“It has been a really good journey for me, just because me and my coaches are learning together,” he said. “We basically came in at the same time, we’re on the same page and we’re finally getting to the point where everyone is buying into the program, and it’s fun to see.
“If I could have a legacy at UW, it is by the time I graduate to get it back to where we are contending for national championships and making it the NCAA regionals without a doubt.”
That is certainly what Murray wants as well.
“Matt obviously did a good job, and this program has a history of success,” said Murray, in his fourth season at UW. “We had some speed bumps and some unfortunate things happen, but we feel like we are headed on the right track. When the chips are down, you’ve just got to dig deep.”
Woolsey credits Murray for helping with the resurgence.
“Alan kept putting the confidence in us. He kept saying, ‘You know you will get to where you eventually want to be. We are growing right now and we will eventually get there,’ ” Woolsey said.
“He told me, ‘You are eventually going to win, it’s going to happen.’ ”
The schedule for UW has not been particularly tough this fall, but Woolsey said beware of a team with confidence.
“I would say the rankings have us where we should be because we haven’t played a lot of top-10 teams, but getting these wins is so big for our confidence going into the spring,” he said. “The spring is going to be the big test for us. We have a really deep team. We have six guys who can really play and we are just as deep as anyone.”
And Woolsey will likely be leading the way.
“This is where I want to be and believe where I should be,” Woosley said of contending for wins. “You might not be the best player in the world but you’ve certainly got to believe it. It sounds kind of cocky, but it’s a mentality where you’ve got to believe. And I fully expect to have a really good spring and I am looking forward to really getting after it.”
Most wins in a season by UW men’s golfer
Cheng-Tsung Pan 4 2014-15
Chris Williams 4 2011-12
Nick Taylor 3 2008-09
Noah Woolsey 3 2019-20
Most career wins by UW golfers:
Cheng-Tsung Pan 8
Chris Williams 6
Brock Mackenzie 4
Corey Pereira 4
Nick Taylor 4
Jonathan Sanders 3
O.D. Vincent 3
Noah Woolsey 3