July 18, 2012
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
The University of Michigan athletic invasion of England is starting a little earlier than expected. As our Olympians get ready to compete in London, a former U-M golfer is preparing to compete in this week's British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.
Justin Hicks, a 1997 graduate of U-M, qualified for the British Open in May, shooting 130 (67-63) at Gleneagles Country Club in Dallas.
While some might be surprised the 37-year-old qualified for this major, a closer check of his professional career shows how his perseverance and patience has given him the ability to learn and grow at his own pace.
While many fans of the sport look at the young guns coming up, Hicks learned quickly that he would have to grow into being a competitive pro golfer later in his career.
He admitted he "wasn't a world-beater in college" and he "wasn't a world-beater" after he graduated. He had to elevate his game, more importantly, learn how to compete and learn how to win.
Through July 15, Hicks ranks eighth on the Web.com Tour (formerly the Nationwide Tour) money list, with his best finish in 2012 coming at the Wichita Open, where he tied for second to earn $52,800.
Hicks' golf career is a great lesson for all of us -- and not just for those who play sports for a living. He watched many of the young top players rise through the ranks quickly. However, he also noticed that many others faltered. Those players did not get the media coverage, and when the game became tough for them on the course, it also became difficult for them in real life. They became frustrated, burned out, quit the game or could never live up to the early expectations they were supposed to achieve.
Hicks started out on a smaller scale, building a stronger game and realizing that each one of us has to advance at a pace that is more acclimated to his or her individual life.
There were times during his career that he was not where he wanted to be, but he had trust and belief in his talents. He knew what he wanted, he knew who he was, and eventually it made him the golfer he is today.
Hicks' consistent view of his game and his life also gives him confidence for the future. Understanding that the sport does not require an individual to bench press 400 pounds or be a 22-year-old phenom, Hicks looks at the likes of Vijay Singh and Tom Lehman as his heroes who matured into great golfers later in their careers.
But that is for the future -- not for the present. The British Open presents its own challenges but many more possibilities.
Hicks has been watching videos of past British Opens. He studies the links-style courses and how the pros play them. He also knows the weather will be an issue. Even though he plays most of his golf in the warmth and sun of West Palm Beach, Fla., he still finds a positive in his preparation for this tournament.
The wind, especially in the winter months in West Palm Beach, is rather difficult. Hicks honed his game in the wind. He also notes "no one likes to play in the cold and rain anyway."
This is also one of golf's four major tournaments. The crowds are bigger, media attention is more intense and the golf courses are made to play more difficult. Hicks like the tougher course.
As with his life, his golf game is based on patience and consistency. He can play sub-par golf, but he does not play the game as well competitively when the competition is shooting in the low 60s. That makes the courses at the majors set up better for the Hicks' style of play. Par will keep your name on the leaderboard.
To prove that point, you have to look no further than the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Hicks shot an opening-round 68 that put his name on the leaderboard tied for first place. Unfortunately, he shot an 80 in the second round and eventually tied for 74th place.
Justin Hicks is still developing. He has more weapons to use and he has more confidence. Most importantly, his desire to play the game is at an all-time high.
A major tournament can define a golfer's career -- both good and bad. Justin's golf career will be further defined by what he does in England, but his life will be defined by more than a few rounds in the British or U.S. Open.
He is on pace to prove that patience, hard work, consistency and desire will set an individual apart from the field in all endeavors in life.
Good luck, Justin! Go Blue!
Editor's Note: Hicks tied for 45th place with a six-over-par total of 286 (68-74-69-75).