In his still brief tenure as a resident of Zionsville, 17-year-old Adam Wood has left impressive marks with his athletic and musical endeavors.
He skillfully played quarterback on Zionsville youth football teams. He was a talented point guard on community-based AAU basketball teams. And to demonstrate that he was gifted beyond athletic competition, Wood played the violin superbly in the Zionsville Middle School Orchestra.
But those moments of youthful greatness may only be the beginning chapters in the notoriety that Wood achieves in his budding life. You see, the Zionsville High School junior someday soon plans to be matching drives, chip shots, and putts with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and others on the PGA Tour. “My passion is to play professional golf,” said Wood, as he briefly paused during a personal workout at the Golf Club of Indiana on a chilly April afternoon. “I want to be walking up to the 18th hole at Augusta.”
And this dream of playing in the Masters and other PGA stops may just happen.
Wood was ranked No.5 among junior golfers at the close of the 2012 season. Among his glistening showings was winning the 95th Western Junior at the Village of Golf in Florida. Wood won by four strokes.
He also made a big decision last year. Though only a sophomore, Wood chose Duke as his next stop in education and golf grooming. Official college visits included Georgia Tech, Stanford, UCLA, and Alabama – all with premier NCAA golf programs. Coach Jamie Green’s Blue Devils are consistently ranked in the elite NCAA college teams.
“I think I can play as a freshman,” assessed Wood, the only recruit in the 2014 Duke class. “But only five guys make the travel squad, and you are constantly competing for a spot. The seniors will have played the course hundreds of times, but the year in school is not the deciding factor. Your skills are the key.”
Those betting on Wood to be successful in the warmer climates of North Carolina are two of his biggest admirers and tutors. One is Steve Simmons, head coach of the Eagles. “Coach Green loves Adam,” said Simmons. “He really likes two things about Adam. He wanted someone from the Midwest who is not bothered by the weather and who can handle things when the weather gets difficult. And, secondly, he likes the fact that Adam is the same if he shoots three birdies in a row or has three straight bogeys. Coach likes that Adam understands that golf can turn quickly.”
That lesson was probably spurred by another supporter who was based in the Adam camp. Father Dan has been coaching his son since he introduced the clubs to Adam at the age of three. “We recognized early that Adam had the aptitude to play golf well,” said the elder Wood, a patent attorney for Eli Lilly. “He was athletic and wanted to learn the sport.”
His son’s desire to learn golf dispatched the Terre Haute native to his personal Golf 101 classroom. Dan’s personal playing days were limited, playing the game mostly with an older brother while in college at Rose-Hulman. Wood scoured bookstores to secure books on improving swing techniques and other critical components of the challenging game. And he and son watched countless golf shows to improve his son’s budding game.
“I was a teaching amateur,” admitted Dan, who estimates he has read 20 books on honing golf skills. “But we decided early on we wanted to get Adam started in the game. We learned as much as possible.”
The first big indication that son was learning correctly was when Adam won the U.S. Kids State Golf Championship at age 8. He collected the title three straight years.
“He’s been a phenomenal coach,” Adam said of his father. “I trust him, and there are so many benefits having him coach me. He knows my tendencies and can immediately fix any problems that I may have. I can go to him when I need help, and I don’t have to set up a lesson.”
Both father and son confide there may be times when they encounter the same challenges that all teenagers and parents endure. Sometimes the two parties may be on different wavelengths. “He has pushed me, but I have loved the challenge,” said Adam, whose mother Kris, a teacher and assistant principal at an Indianapolis grade school, organizes travel plans for the family tournament jaunts throughout the United States. “There is a balance. Golf is the one peaceful place that we can go together as a family. I have the best parents any kid can have.”
There are other companions on this journey for Wood. There is his 13-year-old brother Andrew, who grew seven inches last year and packs a bigger frame than his older brother. His stock is rising in the 13- to 14-years-old rankings. Andrew’s mentor is also his father, who has been buffing some new elements for the second son with major potential. “You learn that no two players are alike,” Dan Wood said.
There are others on the Adam Wood circuit. He also has friends and teammates on this year’s Zionsville team. The Eagles are among the contenders for a state high school championship. After finishing fourth during Wood’s freshman season, many thought Zionsville could pocket the title in 2012. Instead, the Eagles finished 16th.
But an experienced group returns to the links this spring. Besides Wood, there are seniors Will Dixon and Clark Mattison. Coach Simmons noted that two juniors, Clark Tiller and Trent Pancake, are potential college players.
“We have to gain some confidence,” said Simmons. “Ten years ago, you had a chance to win state if you had just three good players. Now, you need one outstanding player and three others to play well to have a shot.”
All admit that last year’s state tournament struggle has weighed on the Eagles.
“We are all business,” said Adam. “The team is taking motivation from last year. I would love to win the individual championship, but winning the team state championship would be so cool.”
For Wood personally, the upcoming spring and summer seasons will allow him to continue to better his game. “I hit the ball straight, and I am consistent off the tees,” Wood said. “It would help if I can add some distance, but you can become too enamored with distance. You can’t lose sight of accuracy. I can improve on a lot of my game. You can’t perfect the game.” Adam is off to a solid start this spring by being the individual medalist at the Bob Spacey Invitational that included eighteen local high school teams.
However, Simmons believes his No.1 player has a very good possibility to leave his mark at Zionsville. “Adam just doesn’t make mistakes,” Simmons said. “He can leave a legacy.” Adam has already begun to create that legacy by recently being named as one of the four players to comprise Team USA in the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup to be held this June in Japan.
And that footprint can be at Zionsville, Duke, and maybe someday on the PGA Tour.
Six quick questions for golfer Adam Wood.
Q:What is your assessment of the Golf Club of Indiana (the home course of Zionsville High School and where he once shot a 65, one shot short of tying the course record)?
A:“I love this place. I have been playing here since I was 11. I still kick myself on getting a bogey on the 65.”
Q:How many holes in one have you scored?
A:“Two. I was 8 the first time and 11 the second time. I didn’t see that one. I guess the ball hopped into the hole.”
Q:How do you control your emotions when you play golf?
A:“It is a frustrating game, but you are hurting yourself and not helping yourself when you show emotions. My dad refers to Spock on Star Trek. Even when you play well, you don’t want to get too excited.”
Q:What do you and your Zionsville teammates do for entertainment?
A:“We play basketball and we get a bunch of televisions and play X-Box.”
Q:How often do you play golf?
A:“I have a club in my hands 365 days a year. We have a net in the basement, and I can work on my swing when the weather is bad.”
Q:Have you watched the movie Caddyshack?
A:“Many times. It’s great.”