Will Hickey (Chicago District Golf Association Photo)
Up until early August, it was impossible to imagine Will Hickey of Burr Ridge winning the 31st Illinois State Mid-Amateur Championship.
It wasn’t that his game was lacking, or that he couldn’t withstand the pressure cooker that is elite amateur golf. It was that he didn’t meet the most simple requirement to compete in the event.
He didn’t live in Illinois.
Hickey, 45, and his family relocated from Minnesota to Illinois, where he grew up, mere weeks before the first tee shots flew Monday at Biltmore Country Club. What Hickey describes as a “whirlwind” stretch culminated with him hoisting hardware in his first competitive event since the move, as his 6-under-par 207 total through 54 holes bested Maxwell Scodro of Chicago, Andrew Price of Lake Bluff and Charlie Waddell of Kenilworth by one stroke on Tuesday.
Despite the new surroundings, Hickey entered the event confident in his chances. His game was in “pretty good shape,” he was familiar with high-level golf, having played in Minnesota events, and he knew many of the players in the field through his brother, mid-am stalwart Brian Hickey of Burr Ridge.
“I’ve had the pleasure of playing against the likes of [defending State Mid-Am champ] Chadd Slutzky, [2023 CDGA Mid-Am champ] John Ramsey, and Charlie Waddell before,” Hickey said. “Those guys are incredible golfers.
“My goal was to finish somewhere in the top 10. I felt comfortable with how I was playing, I felt I could do it.”
Through 36 holes, though, those expectations had been ramped up a notch, as Hickey stood only two shots behind Scodro following Monday’s first day of action. Playing in the final group alongside Scodro and Price, Hickey birdied Nos. 1 and 2 to kickstart his final round and strengthen his belief.
“The first couple holes, I hit great shots,” Hickey said. “The birdie on No. 1 settled the nerves even more. I birdied No. 2, and then I had great looks at birdie on most of the holes on the front side.”
Hickey went out in 32, bringing him even with Scodro at the turn, before Scodro birdied No. 10 to go back ahead. Hickey responded with a birdie of his own on No. 11, due in large part to the advice of his brother Brian, who was caddying after missing the cut.
“[Brian] is my best friend, a co-worker,” Hickey said. “He’s somebody who knows my game very, very well. There were a couple of situations out there where he certainly guided me through the shots. On 11, that was a key point. I had a really tough shot, and he just said, ‘Back-foot a 9 iron,’ and I literally almost holed the shot from 152 yards.”
A bogey on No. 13 from Hickey gave Scodro a one-stroke lead, which he would keep in his grasp through the 15th. Hickey pulled even with a two-putt par on the par-3 16th, as Scodro three-putted for bogey. Then, on 17, Scodro lipped out another short par attempt, giving Hickey his first lead of the day, heading to No. 18, a 538-yard par 5 with OB left.
“I hit a real solid drive right where I wanted to,” Hickey said of his drive on 18, which settled in the right rough.
“I had a little bit of a gnarly lie, so I punched a 4 iron up to about 40 yards, and I hit a great pitch to about 7 or 8 feet.”
Scodro, meanwhile, was greenside in two, but found himself with a tough sidehill lie. His chip rolled off the front of the green, and he three-putted following his chip back up. Armed with a “few strokes to play with,” Hickey conservatively played the downhill birdie bid and wound up three-putting to secure the one-shot victory.View results for Illinois Mid-Amateur
ABOUT THE Illinois Mid-Amateur
Open to mid-amateurs age 25 and older who are
resident of the state of Illinois. Qualifying is required
for those who do not meet the exemption criteria.
Format is 54-holes of stroke play with the low 35
ties advancing to the final 18-holes.
View Complete Tournament Information