Wog works way towards ‘greatest dream’
By BILL HUFFMAN
By his own admission and without reservation, Michael Wog II confides he is “married to my 14 golf clubs.’’
It’s why Wog works almost every night waiting tables at P.F. Chang’s in Scottsdale, and why he joined Moon Valley Country Club – “I’m just a junior member’’ — where he spends most days working on his game and fitness.
“I guess I don’t have time for a real relationship right now,’’ said the 27-year-old Wog, who added quickly, “although I’d never pass up the perfect situation if for some reason things would work out that way.’’
But for right now, being attached to his golf game is just fine, thank you. It’s also the chief reason why the likeable Wog is the latest to be crowned Arizona PubLinks champ.
That Wog won the Arizona Golf Association’s first major championship of the season by a whopping nine shots on Sunday atTucson’s Randolph North Golf Course – his first AGA major ever — also speaks volumes about the tight bond between Wog and his clubs.
“Waiting tables every night and playing golf every day might not sound like the ideal lifestyle to some, but to me I’m living the dream,’’ Wog said, laughing at himself. “If I keep doing those two things – working hard and playing golf — then hopefully I’ll get to where I want to be.’’
Where Wog wants to go is pro — but only if he feels like his game is good enough. He’s the farthest thing from that whimsical PING commercial, where the guy gets a new G-10 driver and suddenly is ready to give up his office job for the PGA Tour. (Even if Wog actually gave up his office job not long ago!)
“I’ve now won a big AGA tournament against some of the best (amateurs) in the state,’’ Wog said, sighing with relief. “But I don’t think that would translate into me being a top Gateway (Tour) guy just yet.
“I could probably make cuts on the Gateway. But, realistically, I probably couldn’t win out there. I’ve shot the numbers you need to win out there, but not for three straight days under pressure.’’
Wog is being modest. He actually did “walk the walk’’ in the Old Pueblo, where he posted rounds of 67, 66, and 66 for a winning aggregate of 11-under 199. That he made one bogey for the tournament on a tough track that was scaled back from a par-72 to a par-70 (6,805 yards) in challenging weather conditions also bodes well on any level.
Tucson’s David McDaniel, who was the runner-up in the PubLinks for the second straight year, gave it his best shot but couldn’t get Wog to crack early in the final round. Despite outdriving Wog by 50 yards (or more) at times, McDaniel could only watch as Wog pulled away with radar-like irons and a solid putter.
“It was really a lot closer than nine (shots), and David did hit some drives that were like, ‘Holy Cow!’ ’’ noted Wog, who entered the final round with a four-shot lead. “But after it got close (at No. 2), where David made his second straight birdie and I made my only bogey of the tournament, I settled down and got back to my goal of shooting 3- or 4-under par, and just worrying about my game. I knew if I did that – stuck to my game plan — I’d win.’’
In doing so, Wog followed up his East Valley Short Course Championship with a punctuation mark in the PubLinks, and quietly pronounced himself as the early leader for Player of the Year.
“That’s not exactly what I’m thinking about, because if I play well this year that (POY) will take care of itself,’’ Wog countered. “Right now, I’m more focused on competing and doing well in tournaments like the Pacific Coast Amateur, U.S. Mid-Am, U.S. Am and the Southwest (Amateur). If I do well in those types of tournaments I might get noticed.’’
Which takes nothing away from what he’s done lately.
“The AGA is a great opportunity, and they run great events,’’ Wog added. “But if I ever want to realize my greatest dream (of playing professionally), I’ve got to do well in those national events, too.’’
That brings up the second part of Wog’s “pro” puzzle – finding the big bucks it takes to bankroll the career path of an independent contractor.
“To just play a season on the Gateway (Tour) costs about $35,000,’’ Wog pointed out. “I don’t have that kind of money, and my parents don’t have that kind of money, and honestly, the connections aren’t there (to do that) so I keep working hard.’’
Yes, being a small-town kid fromSumner,Wash., who played college golf for a small school,Western New Mexico, doesn’t exactly endear him to fat-cat backers in search of future stars. Not that the articulate Wog would want such support.
“I went to theUniversity ofWashington my freshman year, and just didn’t like being one of 500 (students) in a classroom,’’ said Wog of his more subtle choice.
“Being from a small town and going to a small school, well, I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I think one of the great things about going to a small school was, I really made a lot of great friends inSilverCity (Western New Mexico), including a lot of my professors there. It was a great place to study and learn, and to play golf and meet people.’’
Shortly after graduation in 2005, Wog turned down graduate school for a job as an accountant working inTucson. He said, for the most part, he liked working for that power company.
But after two years of crunching numbers, “I wanted to get out of there and play golf and get better rather than spend 10 hours a day sitting behind a desk,’’ he admitted.
Not exactly the same reason as the guy in thePING commercial, but it was the turning point where Wog went gonzo for the game. He arrived inPhoenix a year ago and has been preparing nonstop for his future ever since.
Wog said he joined Moon Valley out of necessity: “I was practicing too much and not getting to play, and they’ve got such great facilities for both golf and (fitness),’’ he said. And as we all know, junior members pay less, a requirment for Wog’s financial situation.
“I don’t know how long it will take to get me to that next stage (as a professional),’’ Wog said with a shrug. “But if I work hard seven days a week on my golf, I believe I will get there.’’
So do all the folks back in Sumner, including Michael’s father.
“All of Mikey’s family and friends are pretty proud of him,’’ said the elder Wog. “His big win (Sunday) was special, especially because his grandpa passed away (not long ago), and his grandpa was very instrumental in his career.
“So it’s nice that things are finally going his way a little, because nobody has been more focused or worked harder to get where he has than Mikey.’’
It’s all part of his upbringing, Michael II agreed. Then Wog laughed about still being called “Mikey.’’
“Yeah, that’s what they call me back home, and there are worse things you can be called,’ ’’ he said of the childhood nickname that apparently still holds up. “My dad is right: I do have a very strong work ethic in that it’s quite a bit above the average guy’s. I’d call it ‘unique.’
“Hey, it’s what you have to do these days!’’
Such desire and determination is why Wog stays grounded even after earning his first major amateur title in blow-out style.
“I still don’t think of myself as a top player like (Ken) Kellaney, and the others who have accomplished a lot (inArizona golf),’’ Wog told the AGA faithful on Sunday shortly after the conclusion of the PubLinks. “But at some point, you have to look at yourself and have some confidence. Winning a tournament like this gives me a lot of confidence.’’
At the same time, nothing has changed, Wog added. There’s still a lot more practice on the Moon, and plenty of hot plates to be delivered at P.F. Chang’s.
“When I was a kid, I never dreamed about growing up to be a waiter some day,’’ Wog quipped. “But here I am, a guy with a four-year college degree working as a waiter. It’s a means to an end, and, really, with all the golf I get to play, I couldn’t be happier.’’
It’s the reason you gotta like Mikey’s chances — especially if Wog II can stay “married.’’