The golf career of David Hicks moves to a new level, starting Monday.
Hicks, a 20-year-old former Middle Township High School standout, will begin play in the 117th United States Amateur Golf Championship, a seven-day tournament at two sites in southern California.
“It’s all been really surreal,” said Hicks, a Middle Township resident and rising junior golfer at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. “When I qualified I was pretty excited. The competition will be probably the best I’ve played against. My goal is to make match play.”
The U.S. Amateur’s 312 qualifiers will have two days of stroke play and the top 64 at that point advance to the 1-against-1 match-play rounds.
The tournament will be held at Riviera County Club in Pacific Palisades and at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. Bel-Air will be used during the match play rounds.
Each golfer will play a stroke-play round on each of the courses. Hicks will be the last to tee off on Monday at 5:51 p.m. (EDT) at Riviera on Hole No. 10. He will start at Bel-Air No. 1 at 12:05 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’ve played more match play as of late, and I’ve come to like it better,” Hicks said. “It’s an adjustment. I still haven’t played it a lot, but I’m used to the situations you’re put in.”
Hicks finished second with a 1-under-par 139 in the 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier on July 25 at Stonewall Links in Elverson, Pennsylvania. The top four finishers qualified.
“I stuck with the plan to be even-par, and beat that at 1-under, just enough to get there,” said Hicks, a three-time Press High School Golfer of the Year and a four-time Press All-Star.
The U.S. Amateur is the oldest golf championship in the United States. Fox and Fox Sports 1 will air coverage of the match-play portion of the tournament. The winner will get an exemption from qualifying for the next U.S. Open, an exemption to qualify for the next 10 U.S. Amateurs, an exemption for qualifying for the next British Open and a likely invitation to the next Masters Tournament.
Hicks, who won three Cape-Atlantic League individual golf titles and three South-Central Jersey individual championships, practices six-to-seven days a week at Wildwood Golf & Country Club in Middle Township and at Stone Harbor County Club.
Besides his coaches at William & Mary, he’s coached by John Appleget, the teaching pro at Wildwood Country Club, David Quinn, the teaching pro at Philmont Country Club in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, and the PGA pro at Centerton Country Club in Pittsgrove Township, and by Dan Dalquist, a golf instructor from Long Beach, California.
Appleget has coached Hicks since he was in grade school.
“David is a competitor. That’s the only way to describe him,” said Appleget, a 52-year-old Mays Landing resident. “He understands preparation for competing. It’s a great honor for him to play in the U.S. Amateur. Of the grass roots people in the area, not many have qualified. It’s a pretty big thing. The advice I’ve given him is to play his game. He knows how to play. At that level it’s about playing your game.”
Quinn, 51, also played in the U.S. Amateur when he was 20. Quinn works closely with Appleget in helping Hicks.
“It’s awesome that David will be in the U.S. Amateur. I’m so proud of him,” said Quinn, a Marlton resident. “Nobody deserves it more than David. He’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached. He puts the time in, and he’s disciplined. He’s been a tournament player since he was a kid, so he knows how to play. I help him with technical things.”
Hicks, whose older brother Alex has been competing on the PGA Canadian Tour, will be facing a familiar problem, playing on an unfamiliar course.
“It’s definitely be a challenge,” Hicks said. “I’ll map out my game plan, check out the yardage and the bushes and trees. I’ll map it out for my eye and what looks good for my game.”
The U.S. Amateur’s list of winners reads like a who’s who of golf. Bobby Jones won it a record five times. Other winners include Jack Nicklaus (twice) Tiger Woods (three times), Mark O’Meara, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard and Matt Kuchar.
“It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for David,” Quinn said. “The tournament is really historic, and Riviera is an amazing place. You walk into the clubhouse and it’s pretty intimidating. You’ll see pictures of people like Bob Hope.”