Ryan Wallen, who led the Blaine High School boys golf team from 2010 to 2013, has already made a big impact as a freshman on the University of Wyoming mens golf team.
After weathering a transitional fall season and improving his game throughout the spring, Wallen earned a spot on the five-
man team for the conference championship and shot the best round of his collegiate career at the end of the season when it mattered the most. He led his team at the Mountain West (MW) Conference Championship in Tucson, Arizona, shooting 218 (+5) over 54 holes, including a round of 70 (-1) that was his best score as a college athlete.
Wallen finished 18th in the MW championship, becoming the first top-20 finisher for Wyoming in a conference championship since 2012, and the first freshman to lead the Cowboys in a conference championship since 2008. He shot his round of 70 on April 27 on the par-71, 7,144-yard Catalina Course at the Omni Tucson National Resort golf course.
“The course really suits my eye,” Wallen said. “It’s long, with a lot of trees and hazards. You have to play smart.”
With its ample trees and long holes, the course in Tucson is familiar to Wallen, unlike the courses he now commonly plays in college, which reflect the meadows and high-desert climate of Wyoming.
“None of the courses in Wyoming are like what I’m used to,” Wallen said.
While the courses required adaptation, the bigger transition for Wallen was going from a standout in high school to an unproven freshman in college. He played the entire fall season as an individual, and his best finish of the fall was a tie for 34th in the Ram Masters Invitational in which he shot a round of 71 (+1).
“It was tough playing as an individual in the fall. I wouldn’t say I burned out, but I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,” Wallen said.
Over the winter, Wallen dedicated himself to working on his game, even though he couldn’t play outside because of winter weather. He went to the field house almost daily to hit balls into a net for hours at a time, often going at odd hours because of his busy class schedule.
“It’s surprising how much hitting balls into a net can help,” he said. Wallen fine-tuned his swing, and when the spring season came around, he was dialed in both physically and mentally.
“When I came back in the spring, I fell in love with the game again,” he said.
Wallen’s scores steadily improved, but he still hadn’t made the team lineup when the University of Arizona National Invitational rolled around in mid-March. At the tournament, Wallen played as an individual but had a better score than anyone on the team, shooting a 223 (+7) to tie for 58th overall.
Wallen’s performance at the National Invitational tournament earned him a spot on the five-man lineup. He had the third best team finish in the Cowboy Classic in early April before heading to the conference championship.
“They only take five [to the conference championship], so that was a big deal for me,” Wallen said. By leading his team in the championship tournament, Wallen proved to his coaches that they had made the right choice, and he ended his season on a high note.
Back home for the summer, Wallen is still competing and looking forward to his sophomore year of college. He was the overall champion in the 2014 Semiahmoo-Loomis Trail Amateur tournament earlier this month, finishing at even par 144 with rounds of 71 and 73 in the two-day event. He has plans to play in the PNGA Men’s Amateur Championship at Palouse Ridge in Pullman and hopes to qualify for the B.C. Amateur Championship. He may also play in the Colorado Open tournament.
All those events are in July, making for a busy month. However, Wallen said, “It’s not like it’s a rough life, playing the sport I love.”
When asked if he is still passionate about golf, he replied, “More than ever.”