All-American Charlie Wi Coming into His Own as a Pro
By John Sudsbury, Cal Athletic Media Relations
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2008 Issue of Cal Sports Quarterly
Not to discount the value of physical skills and natural ability, but golf is a game that takes patience, persistence and tremendous mental fortitude. To reach his current level of success, PGA Tour golfer and Cal graduate Charlie Wi has displayed all of those characteristics, and not just while making shots on the course.
Wi is in his third year of full-time action on the PGA Tour, an impressive accomplishment considering that only 125 players earn Tour cards per year. In that time, he has had 21 top-25 finishes (through May 4), including four in the top 10 and a second-place showing at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee in 2007.
Despite that success, Wi did not go straight from collegiate star to PGA Tour standout. A first-team All-American, Wi captured the Pac- 10 individual championship in 1995 - the only Cal golfer to have ever won the league title. In addition, the Westlake Village, Calif., product led the Golden Bears to a sixth-place national finish in their first NCAA finals appearance that season.
Born in South Korea and raised in Southern California from the age of 10, Wi initially attended the University of Nevada, but transferred to Cal after his freshman season. Following his collegiate career, he continued his nomadic ways on route to the ultra-challenging PGA Tour.
'I've been through it all,' Wi said. 'South Africa, all over Europe, the Middle East, all over Asia. Golf has taken me all over the world. It's been great; I feel blessed to do something I love and to be able to make some money doing it.'
The first 10 years of his professional golf career included stops on the European Tour, Asian Tour, Japanese Tour, Korean Tour and the Nationwide Tour back in the States. He has seen monkeys steal balls, cows on courses and fires scattering ash across fairways.
Through it all, he persevered and excelled, winning multiple tournaments, including his first career win at the 1997 Kuala Lumpur Open in Malaysia.
'As a first-team All-American, people may have expected me on the PGA Tour right away,' Wi said. 'But everybody has their own path. How I got there, the path that I took, I learned so much; I got to see so much. I would never trade those experiences.'
Now in action at the highest level of professional golf, Wi has the opportunity to enjoy more than just the well-groomed courses with limited varmints. He also hears familiar cheers.
'It's great playing in the U.S.,' he said. '(Earlier in February), playing at Pebble Beach, I had the opportunity to see a lot of Cal people. And it's really cool to hear people yelling, `Go Bears!' I get to hear that a lot everywhere I go.'
And as far as the future, Wi simply plans on continuing with his patient attitude and enjoying his current success.
'I don't want to think too far ahead,' he said. 'I feel like life's going by so fast, I'm just enjoying it right now.'