Oliver Wilson talks to Andy Brown about what it was like to compete in the Ryder Cup, winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and how he almost quit the game when he was still an amateur.
When did you start playing golf?
I started playing when I was ten, my Dad had always wanted to play so we started together on his 40th birthday at Oakmere Park. I was there for a couple of years and then things progressed and I realised I could be decent so moved across to Coxmoor Golf Club and started working with David Ridley, who helped me immensely as a junior playing club golf through to county and international and into the Walker Cup. David was the best coach in the area, an England coach for a long time, very experienced and he was my mentor and helped me with my swing. He was there for me and a very integral part of me becoming a Tour Pro. He inspired me to make certain teams and he was more than just a coach.
I went out to college in the US and that was probably the best thing that I ever did. I went out there to Augusta State University when I was 20 and it was the perfect combination of everything that you need to be a competitive golfer. I learned to play golf in a very competitive arena and turned pro there after I played in the Walker cup when I was 23.
What was the decision to turn pro like?
The decision to turn pro was an easy one, but I had been a bit up and down in college. I won three tournaments and was first, second and third team All American, but in the second year out there I nearly quit – I had had enough of golf. I came back home in the summer and played some amateur tournaments and I wasn’t feeling it, I was just putting myself under so much pressure and wasn’t playing well. I played at the Welsh Open Stroke Play and played 18 holes and then pulled out, got in my car and drove home and said to myself that was it, I was done. I went back to college intending to concentrate on the school side of it and that took all the pressure off me. I won three tournaments that year and I carried on playing and getting better and better. The decision to become pro became obvious.
What’s it like to play on the Tour for a living?
I’ve had big ups and downs in my career and I can say that playing on the Tour is incredible and a fantastic experience. After doing it for a few years you can become numb to it and take it for granted – you do have to invest a lot of time into it and work hard, but what we get to do is fantastic. You get to meet incredible people from all walks of life just by playing golf. I lost my card a few years ago and when you are struggling you really appreciate just how good it is and the life that we do have. Most guys on Tour take it for granted and want more, but when you step back and look at the whole picture it is an incredible way to earn a living. Every day we all try to get better and it is your life, it isn’t just a job. To have something like that in your life is very cool.
When you look back on your career what are the moments that really stand out?
The Ryder Cup is the first thing; being able to play my way onto that team meant a lot. Even though the team lost, just making the team was validation that you have had a great year and it is always there, no one can take it away from you. It was a very special moment to represent your Continent in one of the world’s biggest sporting events. It was a fantastic event and I’d very much like to be on the winning team but, even so, it was a fantastic experience. The other big one is the Alfred Dunhill and the way I won it, coming from what had been going on the last few years before with the way I had been playing. It was very special and it is hard to describe that week in words. It was such an emotional week and for it to all come together at St Andrews was amazing – from when I first went to St Andrews I thought that it would be the best place to win an event in the word, so to do that means a lot.
I’ve read that when you took your shot on the 18th at the Alfred Dunhill you didn’t know if it was a good one or not, is that correct?
The tee shot on 18th I had no clue about, no feeling about. I knew it was out of the middle, but I had no idea where it was going. I was nervous at that stage and I was fortunate as I have never hit the ball that well for four days in a row. Most of the second places that I have had I have been hanging on at the end, so to be able to play under that pressure with trust in my swing is really cool and that’s what we play golf for. To hit the quality of shots that I did over the last few holes meant an incredible amount to me. I always felt like my swing got worse throughout a week; it was my putting, short game and mental strength that would get me through. I was always hanging on towards then end and it drove me insane! That’s what drove me to improve my swing and to try and fix those issues. Unfortunately I struggled doing it and, in hindsight, it wasn’t the right way to go about it. I still believe it was the right thing to do, I just didn’t go about it in the best way.
What apparel and hardware do you use?
I’m very fortunate in my career as I played Callaway clubs as a junior and in college and they offered me a contract straight out of college, which was fantastic. I had tried other clubs, but I thought that they were the best. It’s a very long time association with Callaway and they’ve stuck with me through good times and bad. Similarly with Hugo Boss, I’ve been with them since 2006 apart from one season. It’s been nice to have a long term relationship with them and my other sponsor is Orion Engineering and that is another long term relationship.
How much a player is involved with development varies with each company and with how good you are! In terms of clothing, when I was in the top 50 in the World I had a bit more input about types of fit and feedback with gear. The clothing for Hugo Boss over the last few years has become so good – in the early days there were a few issues, but now they have got it spot on. With Callaway we give feedback on the club when something comes out so they get a picture of each club – is it spinning more, going further and so on, so they can pass that back and make improvements.
What ambitions do you have for 2016?
My goal is to do as well as I can and to create some consistency in my game and build some confidence. I’d like to finish top 50 on Order of Merit and, even though I won Dunhill, I haven’t played that well outside of that week. I’m still working on my game and trying to improve it and I’m working on getting rid of the bad habits that I’ve created over the last few years when I was struggling. I felt like I was making some headway at the end of last year so it’s about continuing that and building some consistency. If I can do that then the results will happen and obviously it would be nice to win, as I don’t want to be known as someone with just one win. I want more.