When Aaron Wise left Oregon in 2016, the PGA Tour was like the green on a dogleg par 5: far in the distance, with a few twists and turns to navigate along the way.
Wise had a storybook sophomore season for the Ducks, winning both the NCAA individual and team championships at Eugene Country Club. He decided to turn pro and try to make his mark on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, hoping to graduate to the Web.com Tour and one day the PGA.
Wise didn’t imagine that two years later he’d be where he is, not only a card-carrying member of the tour but also the PGA’s rookie of the year.
“There was really not a timeline when I turned pro of how fast things were going to happen,” Wise said Tuesday by phone from the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. “I sat down with my team and decided going to Canada that summer was going to be the best thing to try to get Web status.
“It’s pretty crazy how fast it all happened. I’ve just had to keep reassessing my goals, keep pushing myself and not let myself be complacent.”
As PGA Tour rookie of the year, Wise joins a list that includes Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Ernie Els and Rickie Fowler. To be mentioned in that company, and to win an award voted by his fellow tour members, was heady stuff for the 22-year-old Wise.
“It’s pretty cool to see that they’re normal people,” Wise said of his fellow tour competitors. “That’s the most surreal part, seeing these people you’ve idolized your whole life and now you’re one of them.”
As a rookie Wise finished 24th in the FedEx Cup standings, earned $3.48 million in tour winnings, had four top-10 finishes and notched his first PGA Tour victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May.
Wise’s three-stroke victory at the Byron Nelson, in which he shot a final-round 65 and broke the tournament record at 23-under par, was the high point of his season. He also had some lows, and smoothing out the curve is one of his goals for 2019.
“Last year I had a lot of ups and downs,” Wise said. “As much as I love the ups, I’d love to make some more cuts and play a little more solid.”
After contending for a spot on the Ryder Cup team this year, Wise said representing the U.S. in a team event is one of his next goals. He’s also looking forward to playing all four majors — he played in the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship this year, missing the cut in both — and visiting Augusta National for the first time.
“Obviously Augusta is going to be amazing,” Wise said. “I told myself I wouldn’t go until I made it (as a player). It’s going to be the coolest experience to go with my family.”
After what he accomplished this season, Wise won’t be an unknown.
“It was truly a year where I learned a lot and changed a lot,” he said. “It was pretty cool for it all to come together and win rookie of the year.”