July 25, 2013
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.
Mark Hollis, director of intercollegiate athletics at Michigan State, and I were having some good-natured fun on Twitter. We were using the social media platform to 'discuss' who could build the best golf team from a wide array of individuals to represent each school. Of course, we would have to select coaches, former student-athletes from the men's and women's golf team, a professor and a media rep to make up the team.
That was three years ago. Somehow, this Twitter 'saber-rattling' turned into the #B1GADGolf match, a must-attend event for the participants, and no one proves how important it is to play in this match more than PGA Tour pro Justin Hicks. The former U-M varsity golfer is going way out of his way to join us at the Country Club of Lansing on Monday, July 29, in the third annual event.
Last year, I invited Justin to play in the match we hosted at the University of Michigan Golf Course. He really wanted to play, but he could not commit due to his pro schedule. He was playing in his first British Open. There, he made the cut after opening with scores of 69-70 at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England.
Even though Justin is playing this coming week in the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, he told me he would make sure he didn't miss the #B1GADGolf match. He will fly from Toronto to Detroit on Sunday night. As as soon as he completes his round in Lansing, he will be taken back to Metro Airport to catch a flight to Reno, Nev., where on Tuesday he will tee it up for his only practice round before he competes in the Reno-Tahoe Open.
The story of Justin Hicks is more than just a whirlwind weekend of golf. This man has fought through a significant hand injury and years of working at his golf game to make his avocation his vocation.
After he graduated from U-M, Hicks turned pro in 1997. In no way was Justin an All-American in college. He never received any scholarship money and played sparingly for the Wolverines. In his senior year ('97), Michigan had a very competitive golf team. Kyle Dobbs was the Big Ten Championships medalist, Michael Harris was coming of age, and the team had its best finish ever under head coach Jim Carras -- 25th in the NCAA. It was a fight to break into the lineup each week.
Hicks still had confidence in his game and a dream he could make a living playing golf. He packed his car and drove to West Palm Beach, Fla., to hone his game. He worked at a number of different clubs while competing on the Florida mini-tour. It took him almost seven years before he scored well enough in Qualifying School to get conditional status on the Nationwide Tour. In 2011, he earned his PGA Tour card. He finished in the top 20 three times during his rookie season. He always says his career has been about taking baby steps, and this season, he continues to do just that. This past June, one week before the U.S. Open, Hicks finished seventh at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He has all but assured himself a finish in the top 125 of the PGA Tour money list and improved status on the PGA Tour in 2014.
Throughout his career, Hicks has been an underdog, and he knows he needs to have the physical and mental strength each week to play on the PGA Tour. And yet, when I called him to play in the 2013 #B1GADGolf match, he said he would do everything in his power to represent the University of Michigan in this event.
We have an outstanding team of Michigan men and women who will take on the Green and White, but it is truly unusual for a Tour player of Justin's caliber to play in this type of a one-day event during the busiest time of the PGA Tour schedule.
Justin Hicks has played in five U.S. Opens and one British Open. Now he will be playing in the #B1GADGolf match for one reason: this is Michigan. That says it all.
This event is designed to have a fun, healthy competition between Michigan and Michigan State and to show the way our two schools can come together every summer and establish a tradition that demonstrates our respect and appreciation for one another.
2013 #B1GADGolf Tee Times
Monday, July 29 Country Club of Lansing
Time -- Michigan vs. Michigan State
1:00 p.m. -- Dave Brandon vs. Mark Hollis (athletic directors)
1:07 p.m. -- Thad Polk vs. Trey Rogers (faculty)
1:14 p.m. -- Frank Beckmann vs. Matt Steigenga (media)
1:21 p.m. -- Chris Whitten vs. Casey Lubahn (men's golf coaches)
1:28 p.m. -- Jan Dowling vs. Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll (women's golf coaches)
1:35 p.m. -- Ashley Bauer vs. Laura Kueny (former student-athletes, women's golf)
1:42 p.m. -- Brianna Broderick vs. Caroline Powers (former student-athletes, women's golf)
1:49 p.m. -- Justin Hicks vs. Matt Harmon (former student-athletes, men's golf)
1:56 p.m. -- Matt Thompson vs. Ryan Brehm (former student-athletes, men's golf)