Wood Becomes Bigger "Fish"
By Michelle Manson

Vanderbilt women's golfer Courtney Wood has watched her career skyrocket over the past few months. Since July, the Brentwood, Tennessee, native has transitioned from a pretty competitive player into one of the nation's most formidable.

Wood made the decision to come back to the Nashville area after spending her first year of college at Texas Christian University, where she earned the Western Athletic Conference's Freshman of the Year honors. The chance to be closer to home prompted Wood's transfer to Vanderbilt.

While playing on the junior tour a few years back, Wood experienced a good deal of success. Upon her arrival to the college scene, however, she had to face the trials of adjusting to a more competitive level of golf.

"It took me a couple of years when I played on the junior tour to really establish myself," Wood said. "When I broke through and had some success I felt I became one of the better players, but when I got to college I went from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a big pond."

After encountering ups and downs during her first season as a Commodore, Wood began to propel herself into upper-echelon status after winning the prestigious 72nd Women's Trans National Match Play Championship in July, her first-ever amateur title.

Wood has done nothing but move forward since her initial win. She captured the 2002 Tennessee Women's State Open the week following her Trans National victory. Wood next took top honors at the Mason Rudolph Championship in September, a performance that earned her GolfWorld's College Player of the Week award.

Wood believes that first captured title at the Trans National serves as the catalyst for her string of incredible play.

"It was hard to adjust to college at first," Wood recalls, "but over the summer I had a really big win at one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country. That really boosted my confidence coming into the year."

A self-proclaimed superstition freak, Wood has some interesting habits she performs in regards to her golf game. Among her many obsessive quirks, Wood's most ritualistic have to do with her headgear.

"I'm really bad about certain things," Wood said. "If I wear a hat one day and play good then I'll have to wear that hat the next day, but if I played bad then I'll put it in my bag and won't wear it for the rest of the tournament. That's my biggest superstition. I'm real big on my hats."

Among the numerous courses she has played since the age of five, Wood lists Augusta National, home of the Masters Championship, as her favorite. Every spring, a group of Vanderbilt alumni make a trip to Augusta to play a round of golf with the top four women and men from each of the school's two teams. Wood says her experience at the course this past year was one of the most memorable of her life.

Augusta National has recently been the center of some heated controversy across the country. In its 70-year history, the course has never had a female member. While women can play as guests, they are not admitted as active members. Women's advocacy groups are pushing Augusta's hierarchy to change its male-only membership policies.

Wood can sympathize with both sides of the debate and admits the issue is complicated. Ultimately, however, she believes that changing the policy would in essence change Augusta itself and not necessarily for the better.

"I don't think it's necessarily fair that women aren't allowed as members," Wood said, "but I think it would take a long time to implement there because it's always been all-male and it makes the course different from most other places. To change that all of that sudden would almost change the greatness of Augusta National. It would take away some of the prestige of what makes the course what it is."

So what does Wood have in store for life after Vanderbilt? Hopefully a career on the LPGA tour as distinguished as her collegiate career is fast becoming. And she doesn't look to be slowing down the pace anytime soon.

"I definitely want to try and play on the tour," Wood said. "I've dedicated so much time to it that I want to continue. I know I have the ability to make it so as long as I keep working hard and improving I'll keep trying for a couple of years. If it gets to where I don't enjoy it anymore then I may have to do something else but I'd at least like to try."


Vanderbilt Athletic Department
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