Durham Amateur win has Michael Wicker back on track

Rougemont’s Michael Wicker, who just completed his freshman golf season at UNC Greensboro, won the Durham Amateur championship for the first time.
Rougemont’s Michael Wicker, who just completed his freshman golf season at UNC Greensboro, won the Durham Amateur championship for the first time.

While his freshman season at UNC Greensboro didn’t go as well as he’d hoped, Michael Wicker is quickly rebuilding his confidence.

The former Northern High School standout golfer from Rougemont, Wicker added his second tournament win of the month when he captured the Durham Amateur title on Sunday at Hillandale Golf Course.

Wicker won the Durham Am on the first playoff hole over Angus Isley, a prep golfer at Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill. Back on May 7, he won the Henderson Invitational at Henderson Country Club on a playoff hole as well.

“I started feeling good about my game,” Wicker said. “My game is there for sure. If I can make a few putts, there’s no telling how well I can shoot.”

A three-time all-PAC 6 golfer and the league’s player of the year in 2014 and 2015 at Northern, Wicker’s best round as a collegiate golfer was 74 this spring. He earned a letter by participating in 11 rounds for the Spartans but his stroke average was 78.

“I thought I was a good player until I got to school,” Wicker said. “Rude awakening is a good phrase for when I got there. I was winning hs tournaments before and was one of the top juniors in the state. Everyone is good when you get to college. If you play OK and shoot even par. you are going to lose. If you play bad and shoot 80. You are going come in last. My freshman year wasn’t as good as i wanted it to be.”

So Wicker is hitting amateur tournaments this summer to get his game back in good shape. In addition to his wins at Henderson and Durham, he made the cut at the Carolinian Amateur at Campbell University’s Keith Hills Country Club in Buies Creek May 19-21.

He finished tied for 23rd at 7-over for the 54-hole stroke play event, but got progressively better by shooting rounds of 79, 74 and 70 on the par-72 course.

At the Durham Am, Wicker shot an opening-round 70 last Saturday to carry the lead into Sunday’s final round. He was under the impression he had a four-stroke lead as he worked his way through the back nine so he played conservatively and was at 4-over par for the day.

But as he prepared for the 18th hole, he was told Isley had shot a final-round 70 to take the tournament lead. Suddenly, Wicker needed a birdie to force a playoff.

He accomplished it by making a five-foot birdie putt.

“Knowing I had to make birdie helped me out a lot,” Wicker said. “I was excited. It was an interesting last hole. My mind changed a lot.”

Though Wicker missed a 10-foot birdie putt and settled for par on the first playoff hole, he took the tournament as Isley bogeyed the hole.

Wicker first played in the Durham Am as a 12-year-old. His second appearance was last year when he finished three shots off the lead as Chris Winters won the rain-shortened event.

Two of his golf role models, Dalton Rich and Jason Garrett, are past Durham Am champions so Wicker had this tournament on his list of goals.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be like them golf wise,” Wicker said. “They won it and I wanted to win it.”

With two wins this month, Wicker said he’s looking forward to next month’s Herald-Sun Golf Classic at Hillandale to continue his bounce-back summer.

“That would really top everything off,” Wicker said.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC