Local golfing phenom Ryan Wallen publicly signed his acceptance letter Tuesday, November 20, to attend the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming, next fall. The Division I school offered Wallen an athletic scholarship that covers 75 percent of his tuition for all four years of undergraduate study. The Blaine senior said he hopes to continue his successful golfing
career in college and earn a degree in the process.
“I was honored and excited to receive this scholarship,” Wallen said. “I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me, as well as coach Bennett.” Lake Padden Golf Course director of instruction Luke Bennett has been a longtime mentor and friend, and has served as Wallen’s swing coach for the past two years.
Wallen sported the University of Wyoming brown and yellow colors with a cowboy’s hooded sweatshirt when he publicly signed his acceptance letter in front of family, Blaine golf coach Steve Barthlow, athletic director Wayne Vezetti and the media Tuesday morning.
Wallen said he started golfing at the age of 10, when his father first put a club in his hands. “From then on, I just had a passion for golf and ran with it.”
In 2010, Wallen turned heads as a freshman at Blaine High School. That year, he not only qualified for the 2A state golf tournament, but took home the second-place individual trophy with a two under par 142 at Apple Tree Golf Resort in Yakima. In 2011, as a sophomore, Wallen won the 2A state tournament by an authoritative seven strokes, shooting a one under par 143 at the grueling Champions Golf Course in Spanaway. That year he was the only competitor at the state tournament to break par.
As a junior, Wallen was favored to win the 2A state tournament in 2012, but he placed second after a nearly flawless performance by Clarkston’s Tyler Carlson, who shot a 71 in the second round at the Classic Golf Club in Spanaway.
This year, Wallen has the same goal he’s had throughout high school.
“I want to win state,” he said. “I’m going to strive for the same goal I’ve strived for all other three years. Just because I got into college doesn’t change that. I still want to compete and be a great high school golfer.”
Looking ahead to college, Wallen said he is excited to become part of a strong Wyoming team under coach Joe Jensen. In his 12-year tenure as head of their golfing program, Jensen has directed the Division I Cowboys to three consecutive Golf Coaches Association of America All-Academic team awards. Several of his athletes over the years have made NCAA regional tournament appearances.
On visits to the Wyoming campus, Wallen said he was impressed with the University of Wyoming golf program.
“Meeting coach Jensen, and meeting the players too, I think it’s a great coaching staff,” Wallen said. “He has a really good assistant who takes care of the golf team. And they have good academic advisers, people who are going to keep tabs on you and your schooling.”
Wallen said he is leaning toward business as a college major. “The University of Wyoming has a brand new college of business that’s really nice,” he said. “I toured through there and was really impressed. So yeah, business is probably what I’m looking at right now.”
A large but tight-knit campus and a not-too-close location were among the other features of the University of Wyoming that influenced Wallen’s decision, he said. “It’s a different part of the country, unlike Western Washington University, which was another school I was looking at. I wanted to go out and experience something new.”
When asked what his long-term golfing goals were, Wallen was hesitant to make predictions.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I mean obviously it would be a dream to maybe play on the PGA tour. Wouldn’t that be crazy, to come from a small town like Blaine and make it on the PGA tour? But we’ll see. I want to go to Wyoming, play four years there under coach Jensen and get my education, and then we’ll see where it takes me from there.”
With golf already taking Wallen to Wyoming, his intense dedication to the sport seems to be paying off.