After three torn tendons ended the first half of his junior season six months ago, Kramer Hickock is back and looking better than ever.
During his summer of amateur golf in 2013, Hickock began to feel a slight pain in his right wrist. In a display of toughness, Hickock played through the pain until it became too much to struggle through.
Hickock would eventually find out that he had torn three tendons in his right wrist, arguably the most important joint in a golfer’s swing.
“I was playing so well I didn’t want to even think about there being an injury,” Hickock said. “In hindsight, I guess I should’ve slowed things down after feeling that little tweak.”
John Fields, who has coached the Longhorn men’s golf team since 1997, was also hoping that Hickock’s wrist pain was only superficial.
“Kramer has the tendency to work extremely hard,” Fields said. “So, at that point, I was just hoping that it was overuse, that it was something that he could take some time off and just be fine.”
Hickock did take the necessary time off in order for the wrist to heal properly, undergoing doctor visits and a blood-spinning procedure meant to increase the amount of platelets the blood can contain.
Fields, who has led Texas to three top-five finishes at the NCAA Championships and five top-10 appearances in the final national rankings, noticed how much his team struggled without Hickock on the course.
“It’s just harder on everybody,” Fields said. “You have expectations and desires that are difficult to fulfill when somebody as great as Kramer Hickock is out of your lineup.”
Hickock hit only low-impact putt and chip shots in the meantime, and by the time the hiatus was over, one of Texas’ most crucial players had missed nearly six months of golf.
But except for a taped-up wrist, most people would not know that.
Hickock has come back from the injury to set up a series of impressive finishes in the Longhorns’ past five tournaments, including three top-10 performances.
After only one tournament back in action, Hickock carded a career-best tie for second place at the Bayou City Intercollegiate Championship in Humble, in late February. Hickock also finished tied for sixth at the Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Ga., in mid-March.
Hickock’s most recent outing with the team, the 3M Augusta Invitational last weekend, yielded his third top-10 finish in the last five competitions, where he was part of a three-man tie for eighth place.
“He played great over the summer and now in the spring he’s been playing great,” senior Toni Hakula said. “We knew we didn’t have the strongest fall and we knew once he got back he would be a solid part of the team.”
Hakula was a sophomore on the 2012 NCAA championship team, and he knows what the stakes are at this point in the season.
“All the focus is on late May,” Hakula said. “Going to the national championship, getting closer and closer, and I think everyone’s getting sharper.”
With Hickock back in the five-man competing squad, Texas has quickly built up some momentum, racking up three top-five team finishes in its last five tournaments.
Hickock, Hakula and Fields all believe a national championship run is in the cards for this season.
“I really think if we get a win in one of these next few tournaments and get some momentum going into the Big 12 Championship, Regionals and the NCAAs … we can definitely win the national championship,” Hickock said.
Looking at the progress that the team has made so far, the future is promising for Texas. If Hickock stays healthy and the team can stay hot, another championship is certainly within reach.