David Hicks was in California this week for a short, planned trip. He was scheduled to return to the East Coast before the weekend.
But he’ll be flying back to California in a couple of weeks to play golf.
Hicks, a 2015 graduate of Middle Township High School, will be out west again to play in the United States Amateur Golf Championship. He qualified for the event by placing second with a 1-under-par 139 at a 36-hole qualifier earlier this week at Stonewall Links in Elverson, Pennsylvania.
The U.S. Amateur Championship is scheduled for Aug. 10-14 and includes 312 qualifiers. Most of the tournament will be played at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, with some action taking place at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. The event will open with two straight days of stroke play, after which the top 64 players will begin match play. All match play rounds are scheduled to be televised by Fox Sports and usga.org. The semifinal and 36-hole championship rounds will be televised nationally on Fox.
“This was definitely one of my big goals, to at least be in contention to try to qualify,” Hicks said in a telephone interview. “I’m going to Riviera and playing against some of the best amateurs in the country and in the world. My goal was to be competitive in the qualifier, and I was happy I was able to close it off down the stretch. I’m glad to have this opportunity. It’s going to be a cool experience.”
All 36 holes of the qualifier were played Tuesday. Hicks, a rising junior at The College of William & Mary, shot a tournament-low 67 in the opening 18 holes and followed with a 72 in the second 18 to finish second by a stroke to winner Dylan Stein, of Flemington.
The top four players at the qualifier advanced to the U.S. Amateur Championship.
“You knew going in it was going to be tough, especially since all 36 holes were all in one day,” Hicks said. “But I was able to get off to a pretty good start, and after that I just wanted to take it one shot at a time and one hole at a time and grind it out. I had a putt on the last hole, and I thought I would do what I hoped to be enough if I could knock it down. I was able to make a 10-footer, so it was exciting.”
Hicks, 20, won three Cape-Atlantic League individual golf titles and three South-Central Jersey individual championships during his high school career at Middle. He played one of the best rounds in South Jersey high school golf history when he won the sectional title as a senior in 2015, shooting a 7-under-par 64 at Town and County Golf Links in Woodstown.
Hicks finished second on the William & Mary golf team as a sophomore in 2016-17 with a 73.67 stroke average per 18 holes. He placed second at The Invitational at Savannah Harbor. His career stroke average is 73.04 through two college seasons.
Hicks’s older brother, Alex, was also a standout at Middle and William & Mary. He turned pro last year and has qualified to play in two events on 2017 PGA Tour Canada this summer.
“He’s been a really good role model for me,” Hicks said. “His advice is one thing, but more so by leading by example in terms of practicing and playing and working on his game and how much he enjoys and loves the game. I try to instill those things in how I work at it. He’s had some success, but he’s also shown me how difficult it is, but that you have to just keep pushing to keep giving yourself opportunities.”
Hicks, who plays much of his local golf at Stone Harbor Golf Club and Wildwood Country Club, said he is considering following his brother’s path into the professional ranks when he’s finished with his college career.
“It’s always been something I thought about, but I know how serious that commitment is, and I don’t want to take it for granted,” he said. “This is a great benchmark to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, and I’ve had a pretty good college career so far. I’ll reflect on how I’ve done when it comes time, and that will impact my decision. I don’t want to make that decision too soon.”
Hicks certainly can wait for a shot at a potential professional golf career. For now, he’ll settle for being one of the top amateurs in the country.