UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
Arizona's Amanda Wilson, a 2005 graduate of Waiakea, has bounced back from a rocky sophomore season to set high goals. "I want to place top five at nationals and I'd like to become an All-American."
Struggles as a sophomore helped Wilson build a stronger bond with her coach, Shelly Harwood.
Wilson’s back on track
Waiakea graduate handles adversity well
Arizona junior Amanda Wilson's personality on and off the golf course resembles the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to a tee.
During everyday life, the '05 Waiakea graduate's steady diet of jokes and witty one-liners makes her a favorite among friends, teammates and coaches alike.
But when it comes time to tee off on the first hole, she's much more of a mystery. Suddenly, she doesn't wear her emotions on her sleeve and can be tricky even for her head coach to figure out.
"Amanda is one of those girls that I can never tell how she's playing just by her walking down the fairway," Arizona coach Shelly Haywood said. "She's a grinder. She just puts her head down and goes."
That's how she attacked collegiate golf from the moment she became a Wildcat. She nearly won her first collegiate tournament and was an honorable mention Pac-10 selection as a freshman. She had four top-20 finishes in 11 starts and tied for 13th in the Pac-10 championships.
It seemed to be the normal production from a girl who had won as many events as Wilson did in high school.
The expectations continued to grow and thoughts of being an All-American a year later had already entered her head.
But for the first time in her life, she began to hit a few roadblocks.
Her focus might not have been 100 percent heading into her sophomore season and school began to get much more challenging. She had a few bad rounds early in the season and doubts began to enter her mind.
"Sometimes on the golf course, you're getting ready to play and you set your mind up for a bad shot," Wilson said. "You have to be under control and think better shots."
Her struggles forced her to change her approach outside of golf as well.
"I just got a hold of school and dropped the social life a little bit and starting buckling down on golf," Wilson said.
Her early success helped mask the difficulty of transitioning to golf at the collegiate level. The difference between playing in high school and college is much greater than Wilson originally imagined.
"It's totally different," Wilson said. "You have to think more when you're in college. You're trying to improve your golf game and not just keep it at the same level."
Wilson has taken that idea to heart. During the offseason, she hit the weight room hard. She has added a solid 20 yards to her driver.
"She's not a short hitter anymore," Haywood said. "She can easily hit it out there 250 (yards)."
Wilson has worked hard on her game and has seen much improvement in the last year. She played well during the fall season and continues to set lofty expectations for herself.
"I want to place top five at nationals and I'd like to become an All-American," Wilson said. "There's a first team and a second team, but I want to be first team."
She has the full support of Haywood, who thinks Wilson has the ability to place in the top 20 of every tournament she plays in. Haywood came to Arizona as an assistant the same year Wilson enrolled as a freshman.
Haywood was named head coach last summer, and getting Wilson back on track has been one of her main priorities. A top-20 finish in Arizona's first tournament of the spring season on a very difficult course has Haywood proclaiming that "Amanda is back."
Wilson will be the only traveling senior next year, and basically has three semesters left in her career.
The two have built a strong relationship after working through some tough times during Wilson's sophomore season. Now the hope is Wilson realizes her full potential in the remaining year and a half.
But no matter what the future holds, the bond that the two have established is something that will continue well past Wilson's playing days in college. She will always be one of the first golfers who have made a lasting impression on Haywood during her new career as a head coach.
"It will be a sad day in my life when Amanda Wilson graduates," Haywood said. "I've seen the progression from a very immature, innocent little girl to an adult that can accept responsibility. You want to be able to shape their lives in some way, and I really feel like she's on the right path."
UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
After a freshman year in which she scored four top-20 finishes in 11 starts, 2005 Waiakea graduate Amanda Wilson struggled as a sophomore before righting herself as a junior this season.
HAWAII GROWN PROFILE
Early success helped her mask the difficulty of transitioning to golf at the collegiate level. The difference between playing in high school and college is much greater than she originally imagined. "It's totally different," Wilson said. "You have to think more when you're in college. You're trying to improve your golf game and not just keep it at the same level."
» College: Arizona
» Class: Junior
» High school: Waiakea ('05)
» Honors: 2004 Jennie K. Invitational champion; '02 Callaway Hawaii State Junior champion; '01 and '03 Waikoloa Open champion; helped Waiakea win '05 state team championship.