COLUMBIA — Jon Sundvold, a standout for the Missouri men's basketball team from 1980 to 1983 who played in the NBA for nine years, has a solid relationship with his son, Wilson Sundvold. The pair take to the links every day during the summer.
“Golf is such a great game for father and son. It’s a way to spend quality time talking about things in his world and in mine. It can be competitive, but we’ve played since he was a kid, and we’ll play until I’m an old man,” Jon Sundvold said.
The Sundvold household, which also consists of wife Tamara and daughters Caroline and Anna Kate, who are younger than Wilson, was never overly decorated with memorabilia from Jon Sundvold’s playing days. He said he didn’t want Wilson Sundvold to feel pressured to play basketball, especially since his son has carved out his own niche in the golf world.
“He hears about me from around the state already, so I was conscious of that. I got to caddy for him in the Missouri amateur competition last year and see him put himself in his own world, playing with guys of all ages. He’ll have these golf friendships forever,” Jon Sundvold said. “His efforts on the golf course speak for themselves.”
As Wilson Sundvold practices on the short range of A.L Gustin Golf Course on a breezy Tuesday afternoon, its easy to see why he is a junior leader for Rock Bridge. His dedication to the sport is well known, but what isn't is his tendency to think his way through a course.
His father describes his style of play as meticulous. Wilson Sundvold has an “engineering type mind, which is more conducive to a game like golf.”
Because Wilson Sundvold grew up smaller than most boys his age, he learned to adjust his strategy.
“He had to understand his strengths and weaknesses, but now that he’s bigger he hits the ball farther. He’s always been very accurate,” Jon Sundvold said.
Wilson Sundvold knows accuracy has always been his strong suit. As he’s reached the age of 17, he’s found ways to strengthen his chipping and putting to make up for his small size. Now, though, he sports a tall and thin frame and has added distance as another element to his game.
“I keep it in play. Some guys go out and bomb it past everybody, but my style is smooth,” he said.
A testament to what his father calls the “brain side of golf,” Wilson Sundvold said he’s become better at approaching each shot and each hole separately.
“In golf, you can’t really worry about what you do in the past. Our team is getting better at it, too. At tournaments it’s really showing up on the leader board,” he said.
That mentality helped Wilson Sundvold and his Bruins teammates claim the title at the Class 4, District 5 championship at Old Hawthorne Golf Course on May 6 in Columbia. Sundvold finished with a par 72 as the tournament’s top individual scorer, and Rock Bridge won with a team score of 306. The Bruins will head to Sedalia for the state tournament on Monday and Tuesday.
Wilson Sundvold said his father’s fame doesn’t affect him, noting that it can help having his name recognized as he travels around the state for tournaments. A knowing grin, however, creeps onto his face when the topic is mentioned.
“It’s kind of nice having the name out there, but sometimes it gets old,” he said.
The Sundvolds also use basketball to bond. Wilson Sundvold played for 10 years before giving it up to focus on golf this season, though he continues to play recreationally. The pair plays H-O-R-S-E or one-on-one games frequently, but Jon Sundvold insists he wants his son to pursue what he loves.
“I never worried that he’d play basketball, and I hope he didn’t have to for me,” he said. “My philosophy is you make the bus, which means you’re part of a team and get to live the fun times. You laugh and you cry with teammates.”
Wilson Sundvold has accomplished that much. He is quick to say the friendships he’s made through golf are the most rewarding part of the game. Senior teammate Eric Martin is one of many friends Wilson Sundvold has grown close to on the tight-knit Bruins team, but he even mentions rival Hickman.
“We hang out with the Hickman boys in the summer, and we’re good friends. But you get out on the golf course and wear your school colors, it gets competitive,” he said.
Bruins coach Doug Daniels said his team is one of the best around for a reason — the amount of time players commit to the sport.
“You get out of it what you put into it. They deserve a lot of credit for putting in hours by themselves,” Daniels said.
Wilson Sundvold has spent the week before the state tournament tweaking his game. On Tuesday he takes his practice rounds just as seriously as match play. Wilson Sundvold takes four golf balls out of his bag and grabs a wedge to work on his chipping. Using a variety of strokes, he alters each shot to land the ball on the surface of the putting green. Arms kept tight and close to his body, legs locked and in a firm stance, Wilson Sundvold comes through a swing with his head down until he makes contact with the ball. As he looks up, he sees the ball rolling within inches of the pin. Expressionless, he places another ball in front of him and goes through the same routine.
A father and son are nearby on the green. The blond-haired boy is no older than 3, yet he clutches a tiny golf club and chips a few feet away from a pin. Wilson Sundvold takes note of them, mentioning his love affair with the game started at that age with his father. The child eagerly runs around the green, following his dad as he attempts a new shot.
The scene is all too familiar for Wilson Sundvold.