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Jeremy Wu captains Valpo before COVID-19 ends season

Just when the Valparaiso men’s golf program was on the rise, the plug was pulled on the 2020 season.

It was Jeremy Wu’s final year, one he was supposed to have a substantial role in even if it wasn’t as a top player at the Indiana university.

“It was a tough way to end it,” said Wu, a team captain for the Crusaders, reflecting on the coronavirus pandemic and the swath it cut across the college sports landscape and beyond. “But this is the type of thing that’s out of your control, and you really can’t do much.”

“I was really bummed,” said the former state champion for St. Mary’s High. “This team this year I was helping lead was the best team I’ve been a part of. It was just kind of a tough way to end. We definitely had a really good chance of winning conference and getting to the NCAA regionals.”

Valparaiso’s traveling team was in Phoenix, Arizona, playing a practice round at the Grand Canyon University Invitational when the NCAA canceled the season on March 12. The tournament was to begin the following day.

Wu was not a member of the traveling team, but his heart was with his teammates.

Like many in the early stages, he and his teammates knew of the virus but had little idea what its impact would be. When the Ivy League shut down sooner than most others, the Crusaders thought the move was a bit extreme.

“We thought, like, OK, the season would be canceled for a month,” said Wu, “but we were sure that come April, we’d be able to play our last couple of tournaments and play our conference. We were all just very confused and didn’t know what was going to happen.”

After the NCAA canceled all spring sports, it announced seniors would not be tagged with a year of eligibility and could return next year.

Wu, who has a double major in finance and accounting, would have been tempted to return to the school were he not already set up to begin a career. He landed a job in Chicago with Ernst & Young, one of the world’s big-four accounting firms, before the school year began. He’s scheduled to start July 6.

Wu cemented himself in the Oregon high school record book in 2015.

That spring at Quail Valley Golf Club in Banks, the left-hander shot the lowest 18-hole score in state tournament history — for all classifications — with a 9-under par 63. He won the 3A/2A/1A title with a 7-under 137, keeping alive the Wu brothers’ streak. Dylan Wu won the previous two crowns, and Josh Wu, Jeremy’s twin, claimed it a year later.

Jeremy Wu’s college career didn’t take off like he hoped, and by the end of his sophomore year, he was “kind of burnt out,” he said.

“I know the best college players don’t even make it in the pros, and I was not even near the top,” said Wu. “I think I quickly learned after sophomore year that professional golf was not for me and I had to look elsewhere.”

He landed an internship, which led to the job with Ernst & Young.

“I was able to stay in the game, still play golf, but also look out for my future in business,” said Wu.

Wu played in three of Valpo’s five fall tournaments, all as an individual. Schools bring five players for team competition and, in some tourneys, a sixth as an individual.

His best showing — and his best tournament since his sophomore season — came in the Crusaders’ own event at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterson, Indiana.

Wu placed 25th, helping Valpo tie for second place. His 4-over 220 was punctuated by 71 on Day 2.

“That was good to kind of put together a little tournament,” he said.

The Crusaders this season were “bottom heavy,” said Wu, meaning their top players were young. Freshman Caleb VanArragon set a school scoring record with an average of 72.57. The next two top scorers were sophomores Garrett Willis (74.10) and Charlie Toman (74.92).

“The seniors,” said Wu, who averaged 79.44 in his nine rounds over three events, “we’re all good golfers, but there was a lot of talent, so we were just trying to help them any way we could.”

VanArragon was the lone freshman and Wu took him under his wing for guidance, both on and off the course.

Wu didn’t feel like he received similar treatment from seniors upon his arrival to the program. When he was named captain, he vowed to “try to get to know the players more off the course. It’s a team sport. I firmly believe you will play better if you are playing with people you enjoy being around.”

Coach David Gring “always looked at me like I’m the best example of how a student-athlete should be off the course,” said Wu. “I’m just very disciplined in my academics.”

When Wu got to college, he encountered a “rude awakening,” he said.

“Once you get to college, it’s a whole new level, a whole new playing field,” said Wu. “No one cares who you were in the past, you have to prove yourself. That was kind of the harsh reality I had. I kind of came in with a big head and had a rude awakening my first year.”

He continued to plug away, but didn’t always see desired results.

“My first couple years, I based my whole entire life on how I performed,” said Wu, “and that’s a very flawed mindset because there’s more to life than golf. My coach quickly made me realize that because I was really hard on myself.”

He’s content with his career, having played nearly 20 tournaments and helped the program grow the past four years.

“When I look back at my experience at Valpo, they provided a lot for me, and I’ve had every tool,” said Wu. “Especially my last two years, so there’s no complaint there.”

Though work will keep him busy going forward, Wu intends to keep his clubs at the ready.

His plan is to play in the U.S. Amateur qualifier each year and “hopefully get in,” he said.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Jeremy and Josh Wu practicing at the Rogue Valley Country Club.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Jeremy and Josh Wu practicing at the Rogue Valley Country Club.