Stanford senior Cameron Wilson launched his professional career in style when he won the NCAA individual title at Prairie Dunes earlier this week. Wilson, the son of a former editor at Sports Illustrated, birdied the third hole of a sudden-death playoff to dispatch Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans, becoming Stanford’s first individual NCAA champ since Tiger Woods in 1996. Golf.com caught up with Wilson late Thursday.
Congratulations on the victory, and becoming just the third Stanford golfer to win the NCAA individual championship after Tiger and Sandy Tatum. Have you heard from either or both of those guys?
Have you ever met Tiger?
I’ve met Tiger a couple times. We used to see Tiger when we played the Isleworth college event, where I met him my freshman year. I saw him again at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club, and I played a practice round on Tuesday morning with him and Casey Martin.
Who set that up?
I think my coach set it up, Conrad Ray. He played with both of those guys at Stanford.
Who won the match?
I don’t think there was a match. It was only nine holes. We played the front nine really early in the morning.
What about that U.S. Open? Did you do any good?
No, I missed the cut. It was fine. It was a great experience. It was cool because it was so near home. It was during finals week at Stanford; I moved up all my exams.
Your coach, Ray, said you were flying under the radar at Prairie Dunes. Is that because your teammate, senior Patrick Rodgers, was looking to break Tiger’s record for victories in a season?
That could be it. There were a lot of guys I was having a better year than, but they were getting pub for having a good year. It didn’t bother me. I play golf because I like to do it, not for attention.
You mean you don’t play golf so you can talk to important writers like me?
That might be one reason; it’s not the reason.
The guy you beat on the third hole of a playoff, Ollie Schniederjans of Georgia Tech—any idea how to pronounce his last name?
Schnieder-gens. I’m used to it. The first time I met Ollie was in the fall of 2009 when he beat me in a junior match play event. In 2010 we played on a team together that went to Japan. It was called the Toyota Junior World Cup at the time.
Did you feel bad about beating a friend?
No. I don’t think you should ever feel bad about trying to win a golf tournament.
Could you have beat Jordan Spieth, if Spieth had stayed at Texas? Aren’t you two about the same age?
Spieth is a year behind me. He’s pretty good, but I think I’ve said this before: I would never bet against myself.
Were you tempted to leave school early like he did?
No. That was never part of the plan. I never thought about that. I’m getting my degree in history. Graduation is on Father’s Day, June 15.
What will you do until then? Why are you back in Connecticut?
I have sectional U.S. Open qualifying in Westchester this coming Monday, at Old Oak and Century Club, and then I’m going back to school for an exam on that Friday.
Do you still play squash, like you did in high school in Connecticut, when you’d put the clubs away for four or five months every winter?
I dabbled. I played a little bit at Stanford. They have a team. The schedule was never that conducive to me playing, though. I would go practice with them. I got a trip to the East Coast out of it, my sophomore year. They had a trip to play four matches at Yale, and I made the seven spot on the team—my parents came up to watch me play. It was bizarre. [Laughs] Here they are watching me play squash in college.
How did you do in your matches?
I won three of them. I lost the other one.
Wow. Not bad! They probably wanted you to keep playing for the squash team.
I think they would’ve been happy to have me. I wasn’t going to set any records or play in the No. 1 spot but I could’ve been a middle-of-the-lineup guy.
Congratulations on getting into the John Deere Classic as a sponsor exemption, which was announced Thursday. How many Tour events have you played?
I’ve only played in that one U.S. Open. I guess that’s a Tour event, kind of. I’m playing the Travelers in a couple weeks. That’ll be my first. John Deere will be my second. I’m turning pro for the Travelers. I’m doing the U.S. Open qualifying as an amateur because I got an exemption through local qualifying as one of the top fifty in the world amateur ranking. And that would mean playing the U.S. Open as an amateur, too.
You’re a lefty. Do you model yourself after any fellow lefties on Tour, say, Mike Weir or Phil Mickelson?
Not really. When I was a kid I enjoyed rooting for the lefties. I was happy when Phil or Mike Weir won. Or Bubba. I have a soft spot for the lefties, but I don’t model myself after anyone.
Will you try and get as many exemptions as possible and play your way onto the Tour, the way Spieth and some others have done?
That’s my ultimate goal.
What about your Stanford teammate Rodgers?
He has the same plan. It would be really cool if we both did it. It’s hard, but I wouldn’t bet against myself, and I wouldn’t bet against him, either.