Confident Hickok poised for super season

Kramer Hickok, 17, will look for a good finish this week at the AJGA's Laredo Energy Junior at Traditions.

Kramer Hickok, 17, will look for a good finish this week at the AJGA's Laredo Energy Junior at Traditions.

Boys Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Scott Scheffler2014TX67.26
2Zecheng Dou2015CA67.76
3Andy Zhang2016FL68.34
4Austin Connelly2015TX68.42
5Brad Dalke2016OK68.46

Ten years ago, a CBS Sports producer phoned the Hickok household to pitch an idea for the network’s upcoming Masters preview, one of those Jim Nantz-narrated tales of spirit, integrity and triumph. He wanted to film a young, up-and-coming golfer from Dallas, a boy with outsized dreams.

You know, someone like Kramer Hickok.

photo

Kramer Hickok recently made a verbal commitment to Texas.

“He’s always kind of been the one that was picked out, even then,” said Lisa Hickok, Kramer’s mother. “Articles in the newspaper, they’d always say, ‘Keep an eye on Kramer, keep an eye on Kramer. He’s going to be the best one, the world just doesn’t know it yet.’ ”

Surely, this season would seem an ideal time for a breakthrough.

Hickok, 17, recently made a verbal commitment to play at Texas in 2011. To celebrate, he and his parents pulled out that old Masters tape, in which the pint-sized Texan first appeared on a national stage. It was a subtle reminder of Hickok’s untapped potential.

“Watching that just shows how much I’ve improved and evolved, and the steps that I need to accomplish to get better,” said Hickok, No. 31 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings. “The best part is there’s still a ton of room left to improve. I can only get better.”

And therein lies the intrigue of Hickok, who will compete later this week in the Laredo Energy Junior at Traditions, where the AJGA’s junior season begins in earnest. Yes, Hickok wants to capture a second AJGA title. But some aspirations loom larger.

Keep an eye on Kramer.

The state’s No. 2-ranked junior player wants to win a high school individual title, then the Texas Amateur. He is attempting to gain entry into the PGA Tour’s HP Byron Nelson Championship, with the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur qualifiers already on his schedule.

“My biggest goal is just to improve and get one step closer to becoming an elite golfer,” said Hickok, a junior at Trinity Christian Academy.

Little wonder, then, why he committed to a youthful Texas squad, knowing his playing time could be limited his first year on campus, and knowing the Longhorns already have a commitment from fellow Texan Jordan Spieth, Golfweek’s top-ranked junior who competes and conquers in Hickok’s own backyard.

“I thought about it,” Hickok said, “and yeah, I could go to another school and be in the No. 1 spot. But the ultimate goal is to be on the PGA Tour. And how can I be better if I’m playing against myself? I’m going to be playing against some of these guys on Tour some day, so I’m going to have to beat them whether I’m playing against them for a spot on the team or later down the road.”

Keep an eye on Kramer.

Already one of the best ball-strikers on the junior circuit, Hickok has taken all the necessary steps to remain among the country’s elite. The biggest concern: his sub-par performance on the greens. In a typical round last year, he would hit 15 greens in regulation, giving himself plenty of good looks for birdie. But he’d need 34 putts to get around, sometimes more.

The short-game struggles took a toll on the rest of his game, too. Just look at last year’s Junior PGA Championship, where, for once, he made putts and led after a 67 in Round 1. But Hickok didn’t strike the ball well in the third round, and when the putter couldn’t bail him out, it led to a 77 and he plummeted out of contention.

“I was so close to that win, and I always had one bad round that held me back,” he said. “It hurt me a lot, and it was like that all last year, and that’s just what we’re working on.”

Keep an eye on Kramer.

During the offseason, he went back to work with longtime swing coach Brent Halvorson, the director of golf at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas. Hickok and Halvorson shifted their focus from the long shots to the short ones – the real short ones, the 15-footers – and tried a variety of drills designed to improve Hickok’s speed on the greens. In one drill, Hickok would stroke three putts from 20-25 feet – normal, looking at the hole and then with his eyes closed. More feel, less mechanics. Less aggressive, less guesswork.

The results, thus far, have been encouraging, prompting Hickok to proclaim recently, “I’m as confident as I’ve ever been on the golf course.”

“From a ball-striking standpoint, he’s one of the best that I’ve seen,” said Halvorson, whose list of past clients include Fred Couples, Bruce Leitzke and Corey Pavin.

“Not that many people hit it as good as he does, so he gives himself more opportunities,” Halvorson said. “But he needs to make a few more putts.”

Keep an eye on Kramer.

The rest of his game? Titanium-solid. He’s even got that etiquette part down pat.

Last year, at the high school state tournament, Hickok snap-hooked a tee shot deep into the woods on a par 5. With his playing partners well ahead in the fairway, he worked his recovery shot around the trees and onto the green, the ball settling about 4 feet from the cup. Makeable eagle, easy birdie. Hickok missed the putt and tapped in, and when his playing partner came to confirm the certain birdie, he muttered, “That’s a 6.”

Huh? Turns out, while clearing the area of loose impediments, he picked up a stick and inadvertently moved his ball. One-stroke penalty. Then, he forgot to replace the ball before playing his next shot. Another stroke.

Said Doug Hickok, Kramer’s father: “With no one around and for him to call that on himself? That was probably one of my proudest moments on the golf course.”

Kramer’s proudest moment came in 2007, at the AJGA’s Junior All-Star at Aspen, where he rode a hot putter and overcame a four-shot deficit to win by three. He wants to recapture that feeling, and with a revamped short game, he figures to contend everywhere he plays the next six months – in high school tournaments, AJGA events, high-stakes amateur qualifiers, wherever.

Yep, better keep an eye on Kramer: He’s poised to burst onto the national scene once again.

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification

  • PGA
  • CHMP
  • WEB
[[PGAtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next
[[CHMPtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next
[[NWIDtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next