Westlake Standout: Matt Wolff
Matt Wolff’s freshman season at Oklahoma State was practically perfect. The former Westlake High standout was the national freshman of the year in 2017-2018 and earned All-America honors all while helping the Cowboys win the NCAA team title. The only thing Wolff failed to do last season was win an individual title, but the sensational sophomore took care of that in the first tournament of the Fall season winning the Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach. He followed that with a win at the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields. Wolff finished the Fall season by tying for first at the Royal Oaks Invitational, making him a perfect 3-for-3 in stroke play tournaments. In seven of his nine stroke play rounds in the fall Wolff shot 69 or better, posting a stroke average of 68.13. FORE talked with Wolff about his hot start, his fabulous freshman season and what he’s thinking about his golf future.
FORE: Obviously you don’t believe in a sophomore jinx?
Wolff: No not at all.
FORE: What does it mean to you to come out and win your first two events this season?
Wolff: It’s really important. I was wondering when the first win was going to come so to do it the first tournament of the season was really nice. You always want to dominate at every level you play at but without a win you’re not dominating.
FORE: After the first win, did you have more confidence going into the second tournament?
Wolff: I definitely had extra confidence going into that tournament. I played well the week before and feel like I am a more well-rounded player. I am working to be more mature on the course and that has helped me.
FORE: How different a player are you today than from just a year ago?
Wolff: I am a lot different. Nothing you can see, because I still basically hit the ball the same way. But inside I am a lot more mentally tough and I have a lot more confidence. I learned how to prepare better for tournaments. When I hit a bad shot I don’t get down on myself. There are little parts of my game, chip shots around the green where I am more consistent. You can’t by the naked eye but if you look at the stats it shows it. I still have areas to improve but the things I have improved have made me a better player.
FORE: The mental game improvement, is that just a better of maturity or have you been working with someone?
Wolff: I think it’s just maturity. I think me having the wrist injury and missing the US Amateur this summer because of it, it’s showed me how much I love the game when I can’t play. It makes me realize how blessed I am to play the game I love so much. When you have something taken away from you that you love it hurts you. So, once I came back I didn’t want to take anything for granted.
FORE: How did you hurt the wrist?
Wolff: It was a soft tissue injury, basically a form of tendinitis from over use. It’s fine now.
FORE: How tough was it not being able to play in the US Amateur?
Wolff: It was really disappointing. You can do what (teammate) Viktor (Hovland) did and win it and qualify for the Masters. It was upsetting not to play but I knew this season (at Oklahoma State) was more important to be ready for. This is what I wanted to be ready for and to come out and win two in a row, it made me feel a lot better about the decision I made.
FORE: Give me your assessment of your freshman year. Did it turn out perhaps even better than you could have hoped?
Wolff: I think so. Th goals I wanted to accomplish were freshman of the year, first team All American, and win a national championship as a team. But to do it the way we did it, in such a dominate fashion. It’s very cool, and I am really happy to be here at Oklahoma State.
FORE: You made title runs at Westlake High, did it feel at all similar last season to those title seasons at Westlake?
Wolff: A little bit but this is such a bigger stage. I definitely looked back to my time at Westlake to help cope with some of the pressure. But this is a pretty big deal.
FORE: What was it like being part of the reality show “Driven,” an all-access behind the scenes look at the men’s golf program produced by Rickie Fowler. What was it like having cameras follow you around?
Wolff: It was not bad at all. I got to know the camera guys and they were cool about if you wanted some space and didn’t want to be filmed they were okay with that. The stuff they got made us look good and was really beneficial to help get the word out about Oklahoma State. There was nothing negative about it. We were happy to be part of it.
FORE: Any added celebrity because of being on the show?
Wolff: Maybe a little. A few people came up to me because of the show. But I think a lot of that was the year we had as a team and that I had. For the most part I did not pay attention to that stuff. I am focused on getting better.
FORE: You played so well during the NCAA’s that a lot of people, including golf analysts like the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee were talking about your swing. Was it a little surreal?
Wolff: It’s pretty special because it’s the kind of stuff you dream of as a kid. I try not to pay much attention to it because I try not to get into my own head. This is nowhere close to where I want to be (as a player). I have to stay focused and keep getting better as a player.
FORE: There is a photo of you autographing a young man’s forehead. Is that the strangest autograph request you have gotten?
Wolff: Yeah. I was working the (Dallas) Cowboys golf event. Some kid came up and asked me to autograph his head. I asked him if he was serious. He said yes, so I said all right.”
FORE: Adapting to college life, what has been biggest challenges?
Wolff: Been really good overall. I have been really happy with the results I put up. Coming to Oklahoma State, at first, I didn’t know if I would adapt well but I really have. The people here took me in and made me feel like family. Adapting to school and golf on the road has been a challenge. Making sure to stay on top of your classes and make up the work you miss when you are gone, it’s sometimes stressful. But once I am out on the course I don’t think about it. My time management skills have had to get better.
FORE: Is this the best golf you’ve played?
Wolff: It’s probably the best I have played but I have certainly left some strokes out there along the way. So, it’s the best I have played to this point, but I know I can get better, and shoot even lower and win by even more strokes.
FORE: Played in the Palmer Cup, how was it?
Wolff: It was awesome. Getting to play in that event and to go overseas (to France) and play with and against the top amateur golfers in the world was a great experience. I was going to play several other big events but then the wrist injury happened, so I didn’t.
FORE: Talk about the team dynamic at Oklahoma State and how that has made you a better player?
Wolff: We definitely push each other and want to beat each other every time we play. We are always happy when the other guys play well but we’re competitive and we all want to be the best on the team. We’re the best team in the country so if you’re the best player on our team you know you are one of the best players in the country. We push each other and call each other out if we feel someone can do something better.
FORE: You were favorites to win the title most of last year and are big favorite this season. Talk about trying to repeat as National Champions.
Wolff: There is a little more pressure to win it again this year. We’ve talked about it some already and trying to do something that no team in school history has done is pretty amazing. Oklahoma State has a great history in college beat, so to be part of a team to win two straight titles would be absolutely incredible. I definitely feel like we have a great shot. We have four or five starters back. And Hayden Wood is playing really good again and I think he will be a key component to us going back to back.
FORE: If you do win the NCAA title again, can you foresee it changing your time frame of moving to the next level?
Wolff: I am going to play it by ear. Whatever happens, happens. I am going to try and play the best golf I can each and every day. When my time comes it comes.