Now all in on golf, Travis Vick picks up signature victory

USGA/Darren Carroll

Now all in on golf, Travis Vick picks up signature victory

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Now all in on golf, Travis Vick picks up signature victory

After missing a 3-foot putt and seeing his three-shot lead disappear on his final nine holes of the AJGA Junior Players Championship, Travis Vick felt like he was on an island.

Sure, the missed par putt came on TPC Sawgrass’ iconic 17th green, but that wasn’t why. Vick, an 18-year-old high-school senior from Houston, is considered one of the top junior golfers in the country, ranked sixth by Golfweek. Yet years of contending and close calls have added up to nothing more than a couple of prep victories.

Two years ago, Vick led the AJGA Under Armour/Jordan Spieth Championship by eight shots with 15 holes to play – and lost in a four-man playoff. Two weeks after that, he was medalist at the U.S. Junior Amateur, only to lose in the Round of 16. Even last year at TPC Sawgrass, Vick opened with a share of the lead, but finished a shot out of a playoff.

So when Vick couldn’t get a 6-footer for birdie and the win to drop, a hole, and lengthy rain delay later, he turned to his mom, completely devastated, and said: “Here we go again.”

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” challenged Amanda Vick.

Two playoff holes later, Vick was holding the trophy, having taken down Akshay Bhatia and Bo Jin in a playoff to notch his first national junior-golf victory. Finally.

“It validated so much,” said Vick, who began playing AJGA events when he was 11 years old. “I’ve slept on the lead many times, but I’d never been able to pull through until now.”

Said Vick’s father, Trey Vick: “You know how when a pitcher is pitching a no-hitter and no one’s allowed to talk to him? That’s kind of what it felt like with Travis the last four, five, six years. … He’d always had a ton of talent and was always in the mix, but he just wasn’t winning.”

Less meant more for Vick

Travis Vick used to always wonder what was missing. Why were his junior-golf peers winning and he wasn’t? Now, he believes he’s found the answer.

For practically his whole life, Travis had been a multi-sport athlete. He played varsity football and baseball for Second Baptist, a well-regarded private school and church in Houston. He was the starting quarterback as a junior and one of the top arms for Lance Berkman, the Astros legend and Second Baptist baseball coach.

But Vick knew he couldn’t play three sports forever. He loved playing under the bright lights and being a part of a team, but during football season Vick would lose his feel for golf by picking up a club just once a week. Grooving his golf swing during baseball season was difficult, too. And then there was the elevated risk of injury.

“It wouldn’t be fair to my college coaches if I came in hurt next fall,” Vick said. “I need to be as healthy as possible and my game as sharp as it can be. I needed to start touching a club every day.”

In June, Vick sat down with his family, close friends and coaches, including his instructor, Hal Sutton. The 1983 PGA Championship winner, Sutton told Vick that he needed to “dig it out of the dirt” and pick a sport.

Vick decided to go all in on golf. And later that month, he followed with another big decision.

Waiting was worth it

When he was younger, Vick watched as junior golfers committed in middle school. Vick’s Houston-area friends Cole Hammer and Mason Nome each made their verbals to the University of Texas as eighth-graders.

“I was maybe a little bit jealous,” Vick said. “I wanted to get my name in Golfweek like all these kids. But later on, it didn’t affect me. … Waiting was one of the best decisions I made.”

Vick strongly considered Stanford, making two visits and developing a good relationship with Cardinal coach Conrad Ray. It was Ray who challenged Vick to take Advanced Placement classes and boost his SAT score. Vick did both.

“If this were November 2017, Travis was ready to commit to Stanford,” said Trey Vick, who attended Texas Tech. (Amanda Vick is an Auburn alum.)

“But 17-year-old kids, sometimes they change their minds, and that’s OK.”

Travis Vick eats, sleeps and breathes Texas. He was named after William B. Travis, the Texas commander who fought and died in the Battle of the Alamo. He loves driving pickup trucks, wearing cowboy boots and going hunting.

A quiet and humble kid, Vick ultimately couldn’t imagine himself in Northern California. Austin, Texas? That was a different story. After all, it was only two hours from his parents and swing coach in Houston, and the place where many of his friends will play their college golf.

‘He surprised everybody’

After getting back from the Northeast Amateur in late June, Vick had more questions for Texas coaches John Fields and Jean-Paul Hebert. So he made the drive to Austin get answers. By the time his visit was over, Vick had verbally committed to the Longhorns.

“He surprised everybody,” Trey Vick said.

With all of his focus now on golf, Travis Vick could continue to surprise. After hanging up his football pads and putting away his baseball bats, he’s planning for a much fuller schedule for his last year of junior golf. He’ll play the big junior events, including the Ping and Simplify Boys invitationals, and the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley. He’ll also target starts in top amateur fields, including the South Beach Amateur and Jones Cup.

“I’m ready to hit the grind on golf and hit a lot of balls,” Vick said. “I’m excited to see how good I can possibly get when I finally devote all my time to golf.”

Vick’s victory at the Junior Players may be just the start. Gwk

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