A Blessing in Disguise
Old Dominion University redshirt senior Thomas Wilde wasn’t really into golf when he was a kid, “I used to play sports like soccer and squash,” Wilde said. He can thank a serious childhood problem he had when he was 14 years old for initially launching his golf career, “I had a blood disorder which meant I couldn’t play contact sports for about 6-10 months and my dad gave me a golf club,” Wilde said.
Although his dad didn’t know it at the time, it might just have been the best decision he could have made, “I took it up relatively late, compared to a few of my other teammates, but I took to it pretty quickly,” Wilde said. Not long after graduating high school in the United Kingdom in his hometown of Bucks, England he made the jump over the pond and started attending ODU on a full golf scholarship.
Unfortunately, the struggle continued well past his childhood for Wilde. While playing in a Nick Faldo hosted tournament in Brazil during his sophomore year at ODU, he collapsed during the first day of the tournament, “I got diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma so I had to drop out of school for a year,” Wilde said. Head coach Murray Rudisill, knowing the willpower and potential in Wilde, saved him a spot on the team while he courageously endured six months of chemotherapy back home in the UK, with the help of family and friends, and got better. “It’s something that has definitely shaped the way I behave now and I definitely don’t take life for granted,” Wilde said, “I owe coach a lot for keeping my spot on the team.”
Fast forward a few years, the ODU men’s golf team has now made the jump from the Colonial Athletic Association to Conference USA and they are no longer the clear cut favorite, “It definitely motives us because being number one in the CAA was great and it’s definitely a confidence boost, but it’s nice to go into an even more competitive environment,” Wilde said. Last year alone the C-USA sent five teams to the NCAA championship while the CAA sent just one, “With all the improvements we’ve made over the last two or three years, there’s no reason why we can’t be one of those five this year,” Wilde said.
Wilde is one of two seniors on the team and acts as a mentor to the younger players, “I definitely see myself as a leader and try to go out there and shoot the lowest score and lead by example and hope the other guys feed off me,” he said. With what he has endured and overcome in his short time on this earth, it must be hard not to feed off of his strength and determination.
When asked what the strongest part of his game was he responded quickly by saying, “My putting, it’s definitely helped me out more than once. I’ve changed my game, but my putting has always stayed there with me.” On the other hand, his biggest downfall on the course is his head. “Sometimes I get a little too worked up. It’s definitely something I’ve worked to control the last two or three years and it’s getting better,” Wilde said. Golf is a game of inches, particularly the six inches between your ears.
Wilde has also toppled a feat that most amateur and pro golfers never attain in a lifetime, a hole in one, and he’s done it a whopping five times. “My first one was pretty lucky, I was about 15 years old,” he said. After four more, it’s apparent that skill also has something to do with it.
When Wilde isn’t on the golf course trying to stay atop the leaderboard he lives the life of a typical college student, “I like to spend time with my friends and girlfriend and just chill out because golf can take up a lot of my time,” he said. “I play the guitar a lot, I’ve always been interested in music.”
The men’s golf team still has two key tournaments on their schedule, not including the C-USA and NCAA championships, but Wilde is looking forward to one more than the other. “I think probably the one I’m looking forward to the most is the home tournament at the Outer Banks course because all our parents come out to watch, you get a real good spirit out there and there are a lot of family orientated events,” he said. That tournament runs from Oct. 21 to Oct 23.
After graduation Wilde hopes to continue his golf career, “The pro ranks is definitely calling and I’m learning all the time so hopefully I learn enough in the next year to give the pro ranks a go and hopefully make some money playing golf,” he said. It’s hard not to root for a guy that has overcome so much and remained so humble.
By: Brian Bowden