On Air/On Course: A Q&A With San Diego Radio’s Steven Woods
San Diego sports radio personality and SCGA contributor Steven Woods is downright addicted to golf. Co-host of the “Ben & Woods” show, mornings from 6 – 10 a.m. on 97.3 FM The Fan, Woods, a longtime adult league baseball player, dusted off his clubs amid the pandemic peak, traded bat for driver and hasn’t looked back. Arising daily at 3:30 a.m. to prepare to talk Padres on the club’s flagship station, Woods’ afternoon hours now regularly segue from studio to turf. In the following Q&A, Woods sets down mic (and clubs) to chat about his golf motivations, an apathy for casual play and his radio dream guest (hint: he’s left-handed).
FORE: The pandemic brought you back to the game, correct?
Woods: I went out, played a round at The Crossings at Carlsbad, and it was like falling in love for the first time. It stuck. I immersed myself in golf; I decided right there that I was done with baseball and that I was a golfer. It was a chance to be outside. And I’m not a real outdoorsman; I don’t run, don’t hike, don’t surf, don’t go to the beach. But I found, and find, so much peace, a calm, on the golf course. Something unlocked for me.
And how does golf fit into your life now?
I grind as hard as a guy with two small kids can grind. I live close to Encinitas Ranch, and I try to go there to hit a large bucket every day. On average, I’m practicing five days a week, with one lesson in there, too, and one round, usually our ‘Bogey Brotherhood’ game. My routine is pretty serious; I’m not just out there banging driver. I’m trying to learn how to hit golf shots. I’m fascinated by the process, the equipment, the balls … the balls fascinate me most, seeing which type of ball can truly help me find my niche.
Where do you want to take your game?
I’m trying to get to single digit. Right now, I’m a 17, so I need to cut off eight strokes. I know it’s in there. I’m gonna do it if it literally kills me or breaks me, or both. I will get there. I feel like I have a good golfer somewhere inside me. You know what I really want? I want somebody to say, ‘Woodsy, he’s a stick. That guy’s a stick.’ My best round was an 83, which I shot on Father’s Day, and I was elated; I called my dad from the car after, and I was floating. Pure joy.
So, to be a stick, can you play for kicks?
I love to compete. I have friends who ask, ‘Can’t you just go play a round of golf for fun?’ I can’t. I can’t just go out for pure leisure, for casual golf. I’m playing to play well; I’m trying my best to play well. That’s fun to me. Taking $40 from my friends is fun to me. Casual golf — casual anything — isn’t fun to me.
You’re a big dude with a big swing. Ever think about dialing it down a bit?
With my driver, it’s a big swing. The rest of my game, like a lot of players, is infinitely better when I slow down. I’ve played in two competitive tournaments, and I finished second in my flight for the second one; on the back of my hand, in marker, I had written ‘SLOW.’
What aspects of your radio work are carried to the course?
A fear of failure, and a sense of attack. For our show, I attack it, I prepare, I show up early, I show up with energy, and I love the process. And, yeah, I’m a bit arrogant. I think those same attributes will get me where I want to go as a golfer.
You’ve had Jason Sobel, David Feherty, Dennis Paulson and Xander Schauffele on your show as past guests. If you could have a weekly golf segment with a specific guest, who would that be?
I’d take Phil Mickelson. He’d be my No. 1 dream guest, of anybody in sports. I love Phil, and I realize that he’s a flawed character because, hey, I’m also a flawed character. I can relate to him, as I’ve had a bit of a redemption arc in my life. In the grand scheme of things, what Phil did only really hurt Phil. We’ve celebrated so many athletes who have done horrendous things … and it’s dust in the wind now. Who did Phil hurt other than himself? I’m sympathetic to that.
Last fall, you held your inaugural “Ben & Woods Open” at Encinitas Ranch. How’d it go?
We sold out in five minutes. Literally. With about 150 players. In four years of the show, because of the pandemic, we’ve only had a few chances to really interact with our audience. The tournament was one of the most special days of my life. People were so stoked that day that I was emotional at the end. We’re planning the next one, but because we want it to be a much bigger and better event, it might not be until next year.
Via the airwaves and your growing connection to the SCGA, what vibe are you hoping to bring to the game?
The golf I grew up with as a kid was snooty, unwelcoming, uninviting. That was the perception. Now? I’ve never felt more accepted, encouraged, loved and supported by a community as I have with golf these past few years. The game today, as I see it, is in many ways the antithesis of what it once was.