Hard work pays off for USC's Woodbury

Special to The StateApril 9, 2010 

For the casual observer, Paul Woodbury's strong play of late would be a case of someone playing beyond their means.

But to anyone close to the Gamecock men's golf program, the senior from Lake City is finally capitalizing on the potential they have seen on the practice range for years.

"Since the time he arrived here, he's gotten a little bit better each year," USC coach Bill McDonald said. "People that have watched him play really aren't surprised at what he's accomplished this year. In the past, it's always just been a case that we were so deep he had a hard time breaking into the lineup."

Woodbury has been as good as anyone for the 17th-ranked Gamecocks this spring. He won medalist honors at the Seminole Intercollegiate this season, shooting a final-round 69 to finish 1-under for the tournament and make a playoff, which he won on the fourth extra hole. In the Schenkel E-Z Go Invitational, he tied with teammate George Bryan for 15th at 1-over 217.

This past weekend, Woodbury tied with Bryan for third in Administaff Invitational in Augusta, shooting a 10-under 206 for his third top-5 of the season. He has dropped his average to 72.44, four strokes better than his career best.

"When I came in, I talked with coach McDonald about what it was going to take to get to the next level," Woodbury said. "The goal has been to improve every year, and in a lot of ways I feel like I have done that."

From the time Woodbury stepped on campus, McDonald has worked on changing his swing. Growing up, Woodbury had little instruction growing up; everything he learned was from family members.

He was good enough to win the Class 3A state championship as a senior at Lake City, but admits there were hitches in his swing.

With the use of video, Woodbury could see he had a lot of head movement on his downswing, causing shots to go left. So after three years of tinkering with his mechanics, he felt comfortable with it this past summer - momentum that has carried into his senior year.

"I finally felt good about my swing, and I think that has been the main key," Woodbury said.

McDonald said the improvement has come about because of the work Woodbury put in.

"He saw things in video and knew he had issues," McDonald said. "He put in a lot of time and effort to make the changes he needed to make."

But it has not been the only change. Woodbury has changed his mental approach as well.

"It is finally nice to know that I would be starting in every event," Woodbury said. "I learned a lot about my mental game when I was unable to crack the lineup my first three years."

Woodbury is on track to graduate in May with a degree in finance, but he is willing to put the corporate world on hold as he chases his golfing dream. He plans on playing the summer as a amateur before turning professional before the start of Q-School.

"Playing professional has always been a dream," Woodbury said. "I'm going to do everything I can to try and make it happen but if not, I've had a great time playing at USC. I've learned things playing golf that I can carry the rest of my life."

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