KORN FERRY TOUR FINALS
Veteran caddie Hicks guides Murray to first Tour title
September 25, 2016
By Terry Jacoby, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- September 25, 2016
- Grayson Murray played junior golf with caddie Mike Hicks' son Jacob. (Kevin Prise/PGA TOUR)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Mike Hicks has been on the bag for more than 30 years and has seen it all from both inside and outside the ropes. His greatest moment in golf is an iconic photo capturing him jumping into the arms of Payne Stewart after the late golfer’s win at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
Since then he’s caddied for some of the game’s greatest golfers including Greg Norman, Justin Leonard and Steve Stricker. He’s also helped and caddied for some of the best young golfers making their way up the professional golf ladder, including Grayson Murray.
Hicks was on the bag for Murray this week at the Web.com Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, and together the two conquered not only the Ohio State University Scarlet Course, but the field to win the Finals event and move to No. 1 on the Finals money list.
And, yes, the two did it together. Hicks never swung a club or made a putt, but the 54-year-old North Carolina native was every bit part of the ride. Just ask one of the five guys Hicks has won with over his incredible career, including the guy holding up the championship trophy on Sunday.
“If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have got through Q-School,” Murray said on Sunday after shooting a final-round 68 to finish with a 12-under-par 272. “I didn't really know what I was doing out there in Q-School. I didn't know how big of a deal it is to make it from pre-qualifying all the way to Final Stage.”
Hicks was thankful for the kind words before swinging the praise back to Murray.
“That’s nice of him to say,” Hicks said. “I don’t know if that’s true, but he’s going to play well with whomever is on his bag. A caddie is only as good as his player.”
And Murray knows his caddie is pretty “good.” He’s looking forward to having him along for the ride on the next stop, the PGA TOUR, a place Hicks is very familiar with.
“We were walking up one of the fairways (Sunday) and I said, ‘Well, I hope we can get 10 more years out of you on my bag and just 10 more years of enjoyment,’” Murray said.(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Murray said he’s not comparing himself to Stewart, who tragically died in a plane crash in October 1999, but hopes Hicks can get close to the enjoyment he had with his longtime friend walking the journey with him.
“I'm not trying to compare myself to Payne whatsoever, but I'm really good friends with Mike Hicks and his son (Jacob) and we go back a long ways and I hope we can have many years of enjoyment out on the course,” Murray said. “Jacob is my age and his first tournament I was paired with him and ever since we have been buddies and Hicksey and my dad are good friends.”
Hicks caddied for 33 straight years, took a couple of years off and returned last May on the PGA TOUR with Vaughn Taylor.
“I took the break because I was burned out,” said Hicks, who returned home to his home in Mebane, North Carolina. “I wasn’t making money. We were missing cuts and I can lose money at home. I also wanted to be home for my daughter’s senior year of high school.”
Hicks says walking the walk with Murray was an easy decision. You don’t say no to “family.” He also said knowing Murray for so long made it easier on him to do his job.
“I was fortunate enough to have a long career with Payne Stewart,” Hicks said. “This is the fifth different player I have won with. You have to have the ability to adjust to different personalities and Grayson is pretty intense. There is not a lot of small talk out there. Some guys want to talk while they’re playing. So you as a caddie have to adjust to the player’s personality and their style.”
And that’s where knowing Murray paid off – in many ways.
“I’ve known Grayson since he was 10 so I’ve watched him play quite a bit of golf,” he said. “It took me a few days to get used to his distances but once you figure that out it is pretty cut and dry.”
Hicks didn’t hesitate when asked if he saw any similarity between Stewart and Murray.
“Wedge play,” he said. “Both are great wedge players. Grayson, for as long as he is and as powerful as he is, has great touch. Not only can he hit it a long way, he can hit clubs different distances. That’s a hard thing. He has the ability and feel to hit those shots, especially under the gun.
“Coming down the stretch (Sunday) he showed a lot of moxie with some of the shots he hit.”
Hicks knows all about success – and failure for that matter – on the PGA TOUR. He said the key to how well Murray does at the next level will come down to the mental side of the ball.
“He needs to keep his head screwed on right,” Hicks said. “Do the right things when it comes to practicing and scheduling. It’s golf. There are more good players and more players shooting the same scores as he’s shooting. It’s hard to win, and a lot of things have to go your way.
“But I think the sky is the limit for Grayson. Obviously, there are going to be bumps in the road with whoever’s career you look at, but the potential is there for him to go pretty far.”