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Vancouver, BC – 31 May 2018 – First round of the Freedom 55 Financial Open, the first event of the Mackenzie Tour–PGA Tour Canada at Point Grey Golf Club in Vancouver, BC. (Photo: Chuck Russell/PGA TOUR Canada)

TEE TALK: Wu looks for hot start to pro career

Dylan Wu has one foot in the real world and is about to bring the other in step.

But loose ends must first be tied.

The talented Medford golfer recently completed a stellar career at Northwestern University and has gained a place on PGA Tour Canada, also known as the Mackenzie Tour. He did it through a qualifying stage in early May, tying for 10th place to earn his way into the first four Mackenzie events.

He must do reasonably well in them to retain that status.

Complicating matters for Wu is Northwestern’s graduation, which is June 22, the same weekend as the Mackenzie’s fourth event.

Wu didn’t get cheated in college. He gleaned an education, friendships, the chance to travel extensively and compete at a high level, and life experiences he isn’t likely to forget.

So walking with his class is important to him.

So, too, is the chance to start his professional career on the right foot.

“Hopefully, I’ll play well the next two weeks,” said Wu, a two-time state champion for St. Mary’s High, “then I’ll talk to my coaches and parents. I don’t want to waste this opportunity, but I also want to walk with my teammates and classmates and finish my time at Northwestern properly.”

He believes making a cut in any of the first four tournaments would be sufficient to move on.

His first event as a professional was last week. He missed the cut by two strokes in the Freedom 55 Financial Open in Vancouver, British Columbia.

This week, Wu got off to a better start in the Bayview Place DCBank Open in Victoria, B.C., shooting a 3-under 67 in the first round Thursday, then backing it up with another 67 on Friday to move into a tie for 13th and easily make the cut.

How he plays going forward and what it means relative to graduation remains to be seen.

But it appears Wu is ready for this new challenge, ready to take on the real world.

“The last couple weeks have been pretty hectic,” he said. “My life basically is all golf now, which is a good thing. I just need to get used to the hectic schedule and playing every week.”

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind for Wu.

Northwestern made the NCAA finals for the first time in his four years and tied for 16th place, barely missing the top-15 cut that would have allowed the Wildcats a chance to play the final round.

Still, it was the school’s best finish since 2000.

Wu didn’t fair well individually, tying for 78th. It was a rare smudge on his college dossier.

Wu owns the second-lowest scoring average (71.76) in Northwestern history, behind only Luke Donald (70.95). He was all-Big Ten twice, winning the conference’s scoring title as a junior, and was a second-team All-American that year.

He has four of the top 15 single-season stroke averages in Wildcats history and won three tournaments. He had 33 top-25 finishes, including 12 in the top five.

His senior highlight was his team making the NCAAs.

“I would say my game was not the best it’s been,” Wu said of his final fall and spring seasons. “My senior season was a little more up and down than I’d like.”

But he’s comfortable with his game, comfortable in how it works and what it takes to tighten things up. He realizes he doesn’t need his ‘A’ game to succeed, though it certainly helps.

“My game felt almost better than last year,” he said. “I just didn’t get much out of it scoring-wise. Last year, I got in the top 10 or five with scrambling, something I’m really proud of. This year, I got more bogged down trying to improve my swing and different parts of my game. I had a lot of good tournaments at the end.”

The NCAAs were just the start of a grueling stretch.

Four days after Northwestern wrapped up play, Wu teed it up for the first time as a pro in the Freedom 55. He wasn’t nearly as nervous on the first few holes as he was in the NCAA regional and championship rounds, he said, but his first 18 holes was anomalous.

He didn’t make a birdie; 15 pars, three bogeys for a 75.

“That wasn’t the best way to debut my professional career,” said Wu. “I don’t remember the last time I did that (went without a birdie). I know I’ve done it, but it’s been awhile.”

He rebounded with four birdies and a 71 in the second round.

After the Freedom 55, Wu traveled to Portland for a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Portland Golf Club on Monday. He was in the hunt — four spots into the U.S. Open were available to 81 players — until late. With three or four holes left, he realized he had to birdie in.

“My caddie and I tried to go for everything to try and get an alternate spot,” he said.

The aggressive approach led to a double bogey on the final hole.

“I played a lot better than I scored,” he said.

From there, it was back to Vancouver on Tuesday to prepare for this week’s second professional start.

He did manage a day of rest before getting in practice.

It was a little surprising, Wu said, that he wasn’t more nervous in his Mackenzie opener.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “you savor the fact that even though it’s been a busy schedule, I have the opportunity to live my dream and play professional golf. I want to enjoy it, learn from it and focus on improving; take all those things I learned in college about being mature and managing my emotions.

“Hopefully, I can do this the rest of my life and succeed. It’s pretty nice to look at it that way.”

The Canadian tour wasn’t Wu’s only option as he studied post-college scenarios. He also considered remaining an amateur through the summer before trying to qualify for the Web.com Tour.

He registered as an amateur for the Mackenzie qualifier in May. When he cracked the top 10, going 9 under over four rounds, and secured a spot on the tour, his path became clear.

“I definitely knew I wanted to turn pro and take advantage of the opportunity and get used to playing a lot of golf,” said Wu.

The standard Mackenzie event has a purse of $175,000 and includes $31,500 to the winner.

The leading money winner earns exempt status on the Web.com.

A top-10 Mackenzie finish earns exemption into the final stage of Web.com qualifying. Nos. 11 through 20 make it into the Web.com’s second stage.

There are other incentives, but Wu’s primary goal is to make the top 10.

“That would be huge,” he said.

And a nice way to break into the real world.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com

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