TOPEKA, Kan. — Native Kansans have reason to twinkle as they tee it up.
Topeka native and University of Kansas alum, Gary Woodland, took home the U.S. Open Championship on Sunday. It was the first major golf title for the 35-year-old.
The people who know him best said they’re proud of his performance.
It`s a nerve-racking experience, but watching their famous son play in notable golf events is something Danny and Linda Woodland have gotten used to.
Gary Woodland’s parents have only been home in Topeka from Pebble Beach Golf Club, site of this year’s U.S. Open, for two days. They said the reactions they’ve gotten from people after Gary’s thrilling victory have been a source of parental pride.
The Woodland parents could be seen prominently on the FOX broadcast of the golf tournament cheering on their son, who jumped to 12th position in the latest World Golf Rankings.
“I just prayed a lot and said, ‘God, let me be calm. If this is his time, let it be,'” Linda Woodland said, recalling the nervous moments during that tournament in Northern California.
“A lot of it is just faith in your child, for one thing, and the fact that he’s being doing this for so long,” she said. “We’ve been watching him compete in golf since he was 6 years old.”
After his long putt on Sunday’s 18th hole fell, Gary was a man in demand with hordes of cameras and reporters with questions.
Linda said she and Danny barely got a moment with their son until late in the evening.
“It’s so humbling, the love and support we’ve gotten from so many people. Hundreds of text messages. Hundreds of emails and Facebook posts,” Linda said.
Linda also showed off a flag from Pebble Beach that will soon bear Gary’s signature. She explained that she’ll donate it, as she has with other items signed by Gary, to local charities as fundraising auction items.
Danny and Linda said they’re still surprised when golf fans recognize them and share their happiness for Gary’s win.
“Danny was at a place picking up the car, and a tech came up to him and said he was at Texas Roadhouse Sunday night and they had all the TVs on the U.S. Open,” Linda shared. “He said when Gary won, the whole place erupted. I mean, we cried. It’s like, ‘Wow. That is so cool.'”
The extra-extended Woodland family — Gary’s Gallery, we’ll call them — felt that love, too.
Many of them were at Topeka Country Club on Thursday, where special posters congratulating Woodland greet club members as they arrive.
Levi Lambing, the head professional at the club, said Woodland remains friendly with the country club’s members and success hasn’t ruined him. After all, Woodland used to work as an employee at the club, and he returns to play the course when he’s in Topeka.
“They remember when he was the kid knocking balls around the golf shop,” Lambing said. “When we see him out here, he always takes the opportunity to talk to the kids. On my first day of work, I started last year, he came up and introduced himself to me.”
“He’s just a genuine man. That’s what makes us the most proud. Yes, he won the U.S. Open, but he’s a good person, and that’s what we’re happy about,” Linda Woodland added.
Gary and his wife, Gabby, are at their home in Florida. They’re expecting twin daughters to arrive sometime in August.
Linda said she`s overjoyed with the win at Pebble Beach, but she`s proudest of the strong character traits he shows away from the golf course.
Woodland is expected to play the PGA Tour stop in Detroit in two weeks, and at the Open Championship in Northern Ireland next month.