by John Dell of the Winston-Salem Journal
Josh Nichols won 5 matches before falling in the U.S. Mid-Amateur final
Josh Nichols still loves golf, and that’s one reason he has decided to join the working world.
Nichols, 26, a native of Winston-Salem and an Appalachian State graduate, has been toying with the idea of turning professional the last two years or so. When he hit it big last summer, getting all the way to the finals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, he also took stock of what his life might become.
“It’s funny, but I was playing so well and I kept winning and was there for like eight days in a row,” said Nichols, a two-time winner of the Forsyth Invitational who lives in Kernersville. “I kept thinking, ‘Is this what I want to do for a living?’”
The answer that he ultimately came up with was no.
He’s in the process of moving to the Triangle to be closer to his girlfriend, Kayla Baba, and is focused on getting a job selling insurance. He said he’s not moving on from golf and will still play a good dose of amateur tournaments. The pro dream, however, has been put away for now.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenge and the grind it takes to win tournaments and a lot of my friends are chasing the life of a pro golfer,” said Nichols, a 2013 graduate of App State where he played on the golf team. “And I appreciate those guys and what they are going through to get there, but I didn’t want to start hating the game because it was my job and I was playing for a paycheck.”
Nichols, who majored in business administration, says he has no regrets about his decision.
“I’m kind of glad I made this choice now because I looked at it from every angle possible,” he said. “The reality is I made this decision when I was playing well and so many guys end up quitting after struggling.”
During his run in the U.S. Mid-Am Championship, he ended up losing the final match to Matt Parziale of Brockton, Mass. Parziale’s win gave him a spot in the Masters in April.
Related: Matt Parziale is the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion
“I missed out on that, but Matt played well and just beat me and that’s how golf is sometimes,” Nichols said.
He estimated he spent around $800 just on hotels during his run to the U.S. Mid-Am championship match. The cost of playing pro golf for a living is high, with the traveling and entry fees for tournaments.
“Obviously cost is one of the factors you look at it because traveling the country trying to qualify for tournaments, and then also playing on the mini-tours there’s a lot of stress,” Nichols said.
Nichols started playing golf seriously at 12 years old at Pine Tree in Kernersville and then at Maple Leaf. He also played a lot at Tanglewood Park and for about the last 14 months he was a member at Willow Creek in High Point.
Since graduating college, Nichols worked at Maple Leaf before it closed down and he also helped his aunt with a wedding catering business. Last summer was one of his best as an amateur, winning the 93rd Carolinas Open and the Triad Amateur.
“I literally grew up here playing golf and this game has meant a lot to me,” said Nichols, who won the Forsyth Invitational in 2015 and ’16.
With his move to the Triangle, he’ll no longer be eligible for the Forsyth Invitational and will miss that tournament the most.
“My dad (Ed) and I have played in that tournament for so many years, and I can’t thank everybody enough around Forsyth County for helping me along,” Nichols said. “I really felt honored winning it twice.”
During last August’s Forsyth Invitational, Nichols was once again in contention but Uly Grisette won the tournament holding off 15-year-old Brandon Einstein and Nichols. It was a casual conversation with Grisette, who was a professional golfer for a number of years before re-gaining his amateur status, that Nichols appreciated.
“Uly was great and offered me some things to think about and I talked a lot with my dad as well,” Nichols said. “But ultimately it was my decision and I have no regrets.”
As Nichols jumps into the insurance business, he hopes to also continue to play amateur tournaments. He knows that working full-time and remaining a top amateur in the state won’t be easy.
“It’s a new chapter, but it will still include golf,” Nichols said. “I’m looking forward to the future.”