The Men’s NCAA Championship is the pinnacle of college golf, and on Wednesday at a regional qualifying event, Jacksonville University senior David Wicks showed how much these collegiate golfers really care.
Jacksonville had never made it to the National Championship before this year, and a bizarre rules situation nearly added another year to that dry spell.
On the fourth hole at LSU’s University Club, his 13th of the day, senior David Wicks marked his 3-footer for par and waited for the other two players in his group to finish out. He crouched on a steep bank to read his putt, but as he stood up and reached for the ball in his right front pocket, he dropped it.
Of course, it didn’t just fall straight down. No, it kicked off the back of his shoe, rolled off the green, around a bulkhead, and after a brief chase he watched it tumble into the water on the left side of the green.
“I looked at my playing partners, they looked at me, and there was that awkward silence where we both knew it’d be a penalty,” Wicks said by phone Wednesday night.
Said his coach, Mike Blackburn: “Just a stroke of bad luck.”
Here was Wicks’ predicament: He needed to find his original ball or he would be assessed a two-shot penalty for not finishing the hole with the same ball. In contention both in the team and individual race, Wicks said, “I was always going to go in. If I hadn’t gone in and we’d lost by a shot, the nine-hour drive back I would have been thinking about it the whole time. At least I know now.”
And so the Englishman stripped down to his underwear and waded into the waist-high water.
— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) May 18, 2017
Digging through the mud, searching for five minutes, he found about 30 balls – “Mostly Top Flites and Pinnacles” – but not his.
That turned his par into a double-bogey 6 – crucial strokes as the Dolphins were fighting with Northwestern for the final spot.
But Wicks, ranked No. 33 in the country, didn’t get flustered. He made five consecutive pars to finish his round, and the Dolphins posted 19-over 883, enough to force a sudden-death playoff with Northwestern.
“It was a bigger outcome and bigger goal than just playing well for myself,” he said.
Wicks was just as solid in extra holes, his pair of two-putt pars helping send 39th-ranked Jacksonville to its first NCAA finals. Oh, and Wicks tied for seventh individually, too, tops on the team.
The rule in question — Rule 15-2 – states that if a wrong ball is substituted into play, it is not deemed a “wrong ball,” instead it becomes the “ball in play” for which a two-stroke penalty is incurred.
If the whole bizarre situation seems to ring a bell, that’s because it happened to Dustin Johnson at the 2016 Players Championship.
When your little brother drops your ball in the water, he has to go get it (even if he’s your caddie)… https://t.co/aBYYmBBZ25
— Skratch (@Skratch) May 13, 2016
The moral of the story? Keep a tight grip on your golf ball around water hazards or else you may have to go in after it.
— — —
Keep yourself up-to-date with the latest goings-on in the world of golf by following the SwingxSwing Clubhouse on social media. We share stories, stats and breaking news on Twitter, keep the fun going off the course on Instagram and share any and all golf-related topics on Facebook.