The golf connection between Woodrow Wilson and Concord University is alive and well.
With former Flying Eagle standouts Mary Denny and Zan Hill teeing it up for the Mountain Lions, current Beckley golfer Jonah Willson has also decided to join the Concord family.
Thursday afternoon inside the Woodrow Wilson High School gymnasium with family, friends, teammates and coaches in attendance, Willson signed a National Letter of Intent to take his talents to Athens.
The normally stoic golfer admitted Thursday was exciting, but left still had him a little anxious.
“The more people that showed up today, the more nervous I got. I’m not really sure why. The spotlight was on me and that was a little different,” Willson said. “I am not used to it, but I am proud of what I did (today) and this is a big step for me. I am thankful for everybody that came out to support me today.”
Willson’s career is filled with plenty of notable accolades and like most good golfers, the love of the game started in his early years with his dad.
“I believe I was three when I started. I had plastic clubs and my dad took me out,” Willson recalled. “Then I went to the First Tee around age five and started playing tournament golf when I was nine. Tournament golf is fun to me. I have always been working on golf.”
While tournament golf became his passion on the links, Willson is convinced that being involved with the First Tee in his early days was a big factor in his later success.
“The First Tee is great place for kids to start out. It gives you the all the basics and teaches you to have fun,” Willson said. “Once you are age six or seven and have learned all the basics, it becomes so much fun because they make it a game. It was super fun and I really loved it.”
Victories on the Callaway Jr. Tour have been a part if his golf resume’, but he has also enjoyed strong success on the high school circuit.
After putting together a string of low medalist honors during his senior season, Willson won his second consecutive Class AAA low medalist honor at the Coalfield Conference tournament played on the Cobb Course at the Resort at Glade Springs. He was also the overall low medalist for the day in all classes.
A week later he blistered the course at Big Bend just outside of Charleston shooting five-under par to tie for regional low medalist honors and help send the Flying Eagles back to the state golf tournament in Wheeling.
Willson then carried his strong play north to the Speidel Course at Oglebay Park at the state tournament, where he finished inside the top-10 to earn all-state honors against a very talented field.
The future Mountain Lion was also named the 2023 Lootpress Male Golfer of the Year for his outstanding play.
“Jonah has been captain of this team (the last two years) since Zan Hill graduated and has been a fantastic captain,” Woodrow Wilson assistant head coach Charlie Houck said Thursday. “He embraced the role and took a leadership role on our team. He is a competitor and a class act.”
A new mindset during his senior season took Willson from a good golfer to one of the best in the state.
“It was really just about being more relaxed. During the summer I just told myself that I was playing golf and I couldn’t really (fully) control what was happening,” Willson. “What happens, happens. Any bad shots or any bad things that happened I was just going to work to overcome them.”
Hill won the AAA boys individual title in 2021 before heading to Concord University. The former state champion had some influence on Willson’s college choice.
“Zan played a key role in me going there. We play all the time and I like playing with him,” Willson said. “I really liked the part where I could play college golf and I could have fun with one of my best friends. It was a win-win for me.”
The proximity to Beckley also helped in the decision process as did the chance to play in the Mountain State Athletic Conference against some top talent.
“I liked the campus a lot and it is close enough that I can come home on weekends,” Willson said. “I can play college golf at a high level and I can further my education. It is a really good fit for me because it checks all the boxes and I really liked it.”
The move to the next level will naturally bring much stiffer competition, but Willson is fully aware of the challenges ahead.
“I really need to work on being more consistent and just work hard every day. Putting in the work is the biggest thing,” Willson said. “Days when it is cold, do I sit at the house or do I work on my short game? I want to get better every day and practice on days when everyone else is at home.”