He’s the only Justin Hicks around here – Union Tribune
Justin Hicks, teaching professional at Stadium Golf in Murphy Canyon, has been named San Diego Section PGA Teacher of the Year. (Nelvin C. Cepeda)Contact Reporter
• Justin Hicks says he doesn’t get them often, but the worst students he has are those with unrealistic expectations. “I won’t go into names, but they want immediate results and they don’t realize why they’re not improving,” Hicks said. “They practice once a month, maybe play a couple times, and are shooting in the 90s. But they want to be in the 70s in two or three months. That’s challenging to work with, getting them to come back to reality.”
• Hicks, who won the City Junior Golf Championship at 16, is a believer in adapting his lessons to the player’s athletic ability, past injuries, current health and amount of time a player has to practice and play. He also believes in teaching aids. He advertises a Hogan Grip on his Web site. And he has the device that has helped Charles Barkley (well, let’s say tried to help) improve his game. It’s called Sonic Golf, an audio biofeedback device that allows golfers to hear their golf swing. Hicks went to a seminar about it and purchased one.
• Hicks bases much of what he sets up for a student on the golfer’s ball flight after he strikes the ball. “John Jacobs said it best,” Hicks said. “The sole purpose of the golf swing is to create a correct impact. The method employed is of no significance, as long as it’s repetitive. That’s your ultimate goal. That’s the first thing. If a teacher gives you advice without watching your ball flight, run.”
SAN DIEGO – A year and a half after getting national attention because his namesake led after the first round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, San Diego’s Justin Hicks is making a name for himself as a golf teacher here.
Hicks, 39, a teaching pro at Stadium Golf and a product of San Diego Junior Golf, earned the PGA’s Teacher of the Year award for 2009 for the San Diego chapter.
“There are a lot of guys who are deserving of this award,” Hicks said. “It’s nice to receive it, and it’s an honor.
“I always wanted to do something with golf, and teaching is what I enjoyed most,” added Hicks, who has been teaching at Stadium Golf since 1996, after he ended a short attempt at a playing career. “I get a lot of satisfaction in helping others. The nice thing in teaching is you can make a decent living, but more importantly, you have flexibility. I can set my own hours and be my own boss.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Hicks, who has two young sons, Jordan, 4, and Ryan, 2, both of whom are taking to golf.
Hicks qualified for the 2008 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines by being the PGA Player of the Year of the San Diego chapter in 2007. He maneuvered his way into a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson shortly after dawn on the Tuesday before the start of the tournament. Hicks said it was a surreal experience for a teaching pro who had spent years at Torrey videotaping Woods and other pros in practice rounds.
Next came the U.S. Open, and a trip to golf’s national stage when Justin Hicks, a Nationwide Tour player from Florida, qualified for the major tournament at Torrey Pines. Even before the tournament started, the two, who aren’t related, were linked in a Union-Tribune story about how they’d been mistaken for each other. They told of mix-ups of sponsorship checks that were sent to the touring pro going to the teaching pro. And there was the time the two were booked on the same flight out of Houston. Florida’s Hicks was pulled from a Nationwide event when tournament officials saw that a Justin Hicks already was entered in the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in 2008.
It all went to another level when Florida’s Hicks invited Hicks of San Diego to join him on the second hole of the South during his U.S. Open practice round and then holed his second shot on the short par-4 for eagle.
Want more Bizarro World? Florida’s Hicks led after the first round. Suddenly, Justin Hicks of San Diego was getting calls from golf writers and networks about sharing the name of a no-name leading the U.S. Open.
“The theme of the stories was that Justin Hicks (the first-round leader of the U.S. Open) was such a no-name that he wasn’t even the best-known golfer named Justin Hicks in San Diego,” Hicks said.
After sharing the spotlight with the likes of a U.S. Open leader with his name, playing a practice round with Woods and competing in the Buick Invitational (where he missed the cut), life has returned to normal for the San Diego teaching pro.
Hicks is coming off a year in which his teaching business increased by 10 percent, a rarity in a year when the economy continued to struggle.
But there’s a reason for Hicks’ success and his recognition as Teacher of the Year. He stays current by attending teaching seminars and going to workshops and has implemented all the latest technology into his lessons.
His Web site includes testimonials from average golfers who became very good thanks to Hicks’ lessons. There are 28 handicappers who transformed to lower-teen handicappers. One golfer, Bob Buckingham, went from a 24 to a 16 in one year, to a 12 after two years of lessons and settled in as a 10 who regularly shoots in the 80s.
Teaching pro Jim Hardy, one of Golf Digest’s Top 50 golf instructors, said Hicks is “an absolutely wonderful golf instructor … a committed student of the game.” Carol Mann praised Hicks for his collection of clips that show golf swings of golf’s legends and modern-day stars.
“He has one of the most extensive clip libraries I’ve ever seen and has been nice enough to share quite a few with me,” Mann said. “His 2,800 clips go as far back as Bobby Jones, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan and include the top players of today from the PGA, LPGA tours.”
Hicks said he has combined modern-day swings with those from the legends thanks to a set of 40 DVDs he purchased from the old “Shell Wonderful World of Golf.”
In addition to using the latest in video equipment, Hicks relies on lessons he learned from Hardy, Kip Puterbaugh at Aviara and former San Diegan Carl Welty, who teaches in Palm Springs.
He’s made a name for himself and still is the most popular golfer named Justin Hicks in San Diego.
To reach Hicks, call (858) 254-0889 or check www.hicksgolf.com.
Copyright © 2016, The San Diego Union-Tribune