PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Let’s be honest: We’ve all wanted to skip graduations, right? The long speeches, the uncomfortable seats, the endless parade of names … it’s beyond tedious. Next time you get invited to a graduation, tell them this: You can’t attend because you’re playing in the U.S. Open. Hey, it’s working for Stanford graduate-to-be Brandon Wu.
Wu, an amateur who qualified his way into the Open field, currently sits at -2, ahead of Tiger Woods, ahead of Phil Mickelson, ahead of Jordan Spieth. He’ll be teeing off later than all those legends on Sunday … which also happens to be the day he’s slated to graduate from Stanford University.
“All throughout the spring we knew Sunday of the U.S. Open was going to be graduation,” Wu said after his round. “So it became more of a realization when I qualified in Ohio: If I make the cut, I'll probably miss graduation.”
This wouldn’t be a tough choice for most people, and it wasn’t for Wu.
“This is a pretty cool experience, too,” he said while standing near the 18th green as waves off the Pacific crashed behind him. “I wish I could graduate with my classmates, but I think they'll understand and be cheering for me.”
It’s been a heck of a year for Wu. He helped Stanford win its ninth NCAA championship and third consecutive Pac-12 title earlier this year. He played his way into the U.S. Open, and has delivered a sterling performance on a course that’s chewed up a lot bigger names than his.
Wu inspires plenty of “Stanford” and “Cardinal!” cheers — he even carries a ‘FEAR THE TREE’ yardage book. Every hole he plays, he’s greeted with a loud, moaning “WUUUUUUUUUUUU” — never louder than on the 18th, when he drained a 10-footer for birdie to close out his round.
“I remember in 2010 I came out here,” Wu said. “Me and my dad sat on that grandstand [at] No. 7, watched everyone come through and struggle on that hole a little bit. So it's honestly just been real fun getting to play and experience that for myself.”
Wu’s golf skills date to childhood, when his father would take him to local courses and driving ranges. Born in California, Wu spent several years in China before returning to America alone for boarding school in his middle and high school years. A multi-talented athlete, he played football and swam before settling on golf.
After the U.S. Open, Wu won’t turn pro immediately; he wants to take a run at making the Walker Cup team before joining the pro ranks in late summer. After that? He can start cashing checks for tournaments like this one.
And while missing the graduation ceremony might sting a bit, Wu’s little brother Evan put it in perspective.
“It’s just a ceremony,” Evan said as Wu walked down the 16th fairway. “He can pick up the piece of paper later.”
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